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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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Conclusion: implementing jobs for youth policies

Action is required on many fronts to help youth get a firm foothold in the labour market. Success depends on both sound policies and effective implementation at the local level, which in turns requires the active involvement of different stakeholders. Action needs to start in early childhood and particular attention should be paid to ensure that highquality early-childhood education services reach children from low-income families and/or with an immigrant/minority background. Furthermore, to ensure that the benefits of preschool interventions endure for these children, supports for them and their families should be sustained to facilitate their progression in the education system. Likewise, individual follow-up measures for those disadvantaged youth who have succeeded in getting a foothold in the labour market should be maintained for a while to secure it. Governments cannot do everything alone and co-ordinated supports and incentives have to come from all stakeholders, employers, unions and NGOs, and naturally from youth themselves. A co-ordinated and comprehensive package of education, social and labour market measures should be developed and implemented jointly by all actors.

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