Youth in Revolt

When people are disrespected, disregarded, or dismissed for a long period of time, they eventually will do desperate things. I believe this is even more true with youth and young adults. In addition to the unrest currently happening in Egypt, over the past 18 months we have seen riots – often led by young and very passionate leaders – break out  in Tunisia, Iran, France, and other places.

I know there are a multitude of complicated factors that come into play with each of these countries. However one common thread in all of them is a sense of economic desperation. The opportunity to work gives young (and old) people a sense of dignity and the possibility of upward mobility. Without those opportunities the walls of poverty and despair seem close in and suffocate the hope out of people. Where there is no vision – hope for the future – people die from the inside out. Furthermore, youthful passion that is not channeled in a purposeful and positive direction will turn dangerous.

How does this relate to the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 51.1% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 years old were unemployed in July 2010. This marks the first time since 1948, when the government first started collecting this data, that less than half of all U.S. youth were employed in July. And this is not just an American problem. Check this out from the Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2010):

But rising youth unemployment is not just an American problem, points out  a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Across the 30 OECD countries, there are nearly 15 million unemployed workers aged 15-24 — four million more than at the end of 2007. In France and Italy, one in four young workers are unemployed; in Spain, 40% are jobless.

Youth unemployment is a global powderkeg that is just waiting for the right spark to turn a bad situation even worse, which we can see happening in Tunisia, Egypt, and other places around the world. The approaches world governments use to create jobs apparently are not working. I believe we need a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship in the U.S. and throughout the world. More focus, money, and education needs to be invested in entrepreneurship-based programs for younger and older unemployed workers.

We can no longer downplay the major roadblocks to success that the youth of this generation face today. Otherwise, the images that we see coming out of Egypt this week could be replayed in other countries around the world, and maybe even the United States.

What are some things you think could be done to alleviate youth unemployment?


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