2012: What’s the G20 for if it can’t tackle youth unemployment?
One of the few achievements of the G20 in 2011 was the creation of an employment task force to give some reality to the fine words about jobs being the top priority for world leaders in November’s Cannes Summit Statement. The creation of the task force, initially proposed by the 2nd G20 employment ministers’ meeting in Paris this Spring (the first was in New York in April 2010), was a key demand of the trade union movement. But even for us union types, getting a committee set up was not the ultimate goal: we want the 2012 Mexican G20 to agree and then implement a strategy addressing youth unemployment.
On 15 December, the first meeting of the task force took place in Mexico City, and whilst it’s good news that such urgency was displayed, there is still a long way to go before the G20 leaders’ summit in Los Cabos in June. Global unions have set out a range of demands for the 2012 Mexican G20, but youth unemployment will be the key test, and global unions issued a discussion paper ahead of the first task force meeting.
The challenge is immense. 45 million young people enter the global labour market every year, and in most countries, youth unemployment rates are several times higher than adult rates. The possibility that youth unemployment will lead to social unrest – as Tunisia showed just a year ago in the most dramatic fashion possible – no doubt focused the minds of the world leaders when they set up the task force. So, in Britain, did the news that youth unemployment topped the million mark this autumn.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow commented ahead of the first task force meeting:
“Youth unemployment is epidemic in both developed and emerging economies, and poses one of the greatest threats to economic recovery. The crisis cannot be tackled solely through microeconomic measures as the growing jobs deficit has reached epidemic proportions.”
Global Unions, in addition to the broader set of measures to kick start the global economy and create jobs set out in the demands for the G20, are calling for a “G20 Youth Jobs Pact”, building on the tripartite Global Jobs Pact negotiated in the ILO. At the national level it should be designed and implemented through social dialogue with employers and unions and include: vocational education and training guarantees, whether full-time or associated with employment, which lead to qualifications; apprenticeship and quality internship programmes together with incentives for workers and employers that make them effective; job guarantee schemes; and active labour market programmes. But global unions reject lower wages or employment rights for young workers because they would simply create a race for the bottom, spreading the misery of unemployment around.