Putting Young People To Work

Young workers are struggling to find jobs, despite labor shortages.

This summer, I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of interns making their first forays into the professional world. I enjoy their energy and ambition, and I applaud them for taking charge of their careers at an early stage. The opportunity to gain work experience at a young age should not be taken for granted. Unfortunately, prospects for young workers around the world are not uniformly bright.

In country after country, labor markets are struggling to put young people to work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports a global youth (age 15-24) employment-population ratio (EPR) of 34.5% in 2022, 0.7 percentage points below its 2019 level. While lower employment among people with fewer skills or still in school is not surprising, the gap can be disconcerting. In China, for example, the unemployment rate for young workers has exceeded 21%, in contrast to only 4.1% for workers 25 and over. The gap is similar in India, with the youth unemployment rate estimated at nearly 25%. In nations of over a billion, this means millions of citizens are not living up to their potential.

Unemployment rates alone do not capture the entire problem, as some young workers are already dropping out of the labor force. Economies worldwide are struggling with rising rates of young people classified as NEET: Not in Employment, Education or Training. The ILO estimates 23.5% of global young people, or 289 million, are NEET.

China Unemployment Rate