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Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth

image of Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth

Promoting a smooth transition from school to work, and ensuring that youth are given the opportunities to move on in their careers and lives, have long been issues of fundamental importance for our economies and societies. Today, they are even more pressing challenges as the global economy emerges from the worst crisis of the past 50 years. Indeed, young people have borne much of the brunt of the recent jobs crisis. The youth unemployment rate is approaching 20% in the OECD area, with nearly 4 million more youth among the unemployed than at the end of 2007. 

The initial experience in the labour market has a profound influence on later working life. Getting off to a good start facilitates youth integration into the world of work and lays the foundation for a good career, while it can be difficult to catch up after an initial failure. In particular, the jobs crisis is likely to leave long-lasting “scarring” effects on some of the current generation of school-leavers, particularly if they face multiple disadvantages, such as having low skills and also coming from a disadvantaged background. 

Tackling the youth jobs crisis requires a strong commitment from all: the youth themselves, the government through well-targeted and effective policy measures, social partners though their participation in the dialogue, and other key actors – such as teachers, practitioners and parents – who can really make a difference to investing in youth. 

This report makes an important contribution to a new agenda of youth-friendly employment policies and practices. It analyses the situation of youth employment and unemployment in the context of the jobs crisis and identifies successful policy measures in OECD countries. But it also discusses structural reforms in education and in the labour market that can facilitate the transition from school to work. The report draws on both recent data and the main lessons that emerged from the 16 country reviews conducted as part of the OECD Jobs for Youth/Des emplois pour les jeunes programme.

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Better education and training to improve the transition to work

The crisis has highlighted once again that one of the main underlying structural problems in the youth labour market is related to education and training. Some youth are leaving the education system and entering the labour market without a recognised qualification and/or with skills not relevant for labour market needs. This calls for remedial action that could be beneficial during the crisis but also well beyond. In many countries, actions are needed in several different areas, particularly to ensure high-quality training programmes for school drop-outs. Policy initiatives in OECD countries should all seek to achieve three key objectives, to: i) minimise the number of school drop-outs; ii) promote the combination of study and work; and iii) offer every youth a second chance to obtain a qualification. Recent promising and innovative measures implemented in OECD countries seek to prevent teenagers from dropping out of school, to help tertiary students and graduates to be better prepared to enter the labour market and to promote successful apprenticeship opportunities for youth, particularly among the most disadvantaged groups.

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