Friday, November 2, 2018

From youth to adulthood: turning risks into opportunities

The transition to adulthood can be a time of enormous opportunities—but also risks. Globally, the youth unemployment rate is twice as high as the total unemployment rate (ILO, 2017b). Even if they do find a job, young people are overrepresented in so-called vulnerable employment, often in the informal sector. In addition, a growing number of young people are neither in the education system nor employed or in training.

Creating a social and economic environment that enables young people to thrive in adulthood—including pathways to decent work—is central to promoting their inclusion. But when opportunities for work are lacking, social protection can play a vital role in addressing exclusionary risks.

Although few social protection schemes formally exclude youth, most of the programmes available to young people require contributory payments. Because of their age and their high participation in informal employment, young people have shorter formal work histories than adults. They have paid less into contributory schemes and therefore tend to benefit less from them than adults. When it comes to unemployment protection, only 20 out of 201 countries provide unemployment benefits for first-time job seekers (ILO, 2014a).

Young people in need can access tax-financed schemes, where available, including unemployment assistance and minimum income benefits or health care. However, cash benefits for children and families often elude them, either because of their age (benefits are typically cut off after age 18) or because they no longer live with their parents.
Failing to invest in youth—by, for instance, limiting access to unemployment insurance for first-time job seekers or providing health care to workers in formal employment only—can have long-term costs, including squandered human capital and social unrest. Excluded young people miss out on opportunities for training and skills development. Furthermore, young parents who live in poverty cannot afford to invest in the health and education of their children, perpetuating the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

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