The Global Economic Crisis Is A Global Jobs Crisis
“The global economic crisis is a global jobs crisis. And youth are hardest hit”.
Today February 16 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a lecture about “Empowering People in a Changing World” at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Hundreds of people in power, among them ministers, diplomats, ambassadors and representatives of the civil society heard what Mr. Ki-moon said in his speech. This was the first time I heard Mr. Ki-moon speaking about women and youth problems. I am sure that if the listeners kept what they heard in mind while dealing with women and youth, then the face of the future would change.
Part of what Mr. Ki-moon said about women and youth is below
Half the world is women – and half the world is under 25 years of age. One out of five people are between the ages of 15 and 24. Nearly 90 percent of them youth live in developing countries – nearly one billion live in Asia and Africa. In places like Gaza, three out of four people are under the age of 25. In Iraq, one-quarter of the population was born since the start of the war in 2003 alone. Some demographers call this a “youth bulge”.
I am not a big fan of that term. I do not see the largest-ever generation of young people as a “bulge.” It is a dividend. It is not a threat; it is an opportunity. To seize it, we must face a new generation of empowerment challenges. Let’s start with empowering women.
Around the world, women educate the children … they are the key to healthy families … they are increasingly the entrepreneurs. Wherever I travel, I urge leaders to put more women in genuine decision making roles. More women in the Cabinet. More women in legislatures. More women leading universities. More women on corporate boards.
Studies have found that Fortune 500 companies with the highest number of women on the governing boards were far more profitable than those with the fewest number.
Today, many look to the world of social media. The majority of those who use it are women – and the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook is a woman.
Yet many are asking: Why are there no women on the corporate board of Facebook, Twitter or other young, dynamic companies?
I believe that’s a fair question. In my visits around the globe, I always make the case for greater women’s representation in Parliaments – including in the Arab world. Some suggest quotas or other special steps.
There is plenty of evidence that shows how such temporary measures can make a permanent difference.
We must not miss this opportunity to write women’s rights more deeply into the constitutional and legal framework in the Arab region and beyond.
We are also putting women at the core of our efforts to strengthen equality and growth while protecting our planet. Women hold the key to sustainable development.
You will hear more about this as we approach the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
I am committed to doing much more. This includes deepening our work to combat violence against women – and expanding women’s participation in peace-building efforts. And within the United Nations, I will keep leading by example.
In my first five years as Secretary-General, I have nearly doubled the number of women in senior UN positions. Our top humanitarian official and our top development official…our head of management … our top doctor … top lawyer … even our top cop… all are women. And we have the largest number of women in UN history – five and counting – leading UN peacekeeping missions and managing thousands of soldiers in the field. From Timor-Leste to South Sudan. From Central Africa to Cyprus to Burundi.
And at New York headquarters, we have the new UN Women – headed by the former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. I am also keenly aware that we have much more to do to empower women within the United Nations. And I am determined to keep building on our record.
Ladies and gentlemen, We can apply the lessons we learn from women’s empowerment for youth empowerment.Window dressing will not do it. Neither will politically expedient band-aids.
Let me tell you what I mean. Not long ago, a Head of State called on the United Nations to establish an International Year on Youth. He claimed he wanted young people to make their voices heard. The bad news is that the leader was President Ben Ali of Tunisia.The good news is …. it worked!
A few months into the International Year of Youth, he heard the voice of his country’s young people – and so did the world. President Ben Ali was forced to leave office because he listened too late. But, once again, we are reminded that we all have an obligation to listen. That is what I do.
I try to meet with young people wherever I go. Those exchanges are some of the toughest, most candid, spirited discussions that I have. Young people everywhere talk jobs. They want the dignity that comes from a decent work. Economic hard times and austerity measures are making it more difficult.
The global economic crisis is a global jobs crisis. And youth are hardest hit.
Unemployment rates for young people are at record levels – two, three, sometimes even six times the rate for adults. But joblessness is only part of the story. Many who are working are stuck in low-wage, dead-end work. Many others are finding that their degrees are not always a ticket to jobs.
After years of study, they learn a new lesson: their schooling has not equipped them with the tools for today’s job market. This must change. Young people also tell me that they not only want jobs – but the opportunity to create jobs. So we must do more on entrepreneurship. Austria has much to teach us. You are tackling youth unemployment – just as you are working to address the new requirements of an aging workforce. The Austrian apprenticeship model is the kind of initiative that young people say they would like to see in their own countries.
Now is the time to step up our efforts. Last year, the world’s population crossed 7 billion. In five years, it will be 7.5 billion. The world will need 600 million new jobs over the next decade. Without urgent measures to stem the rising tide of youth unemployment, we risk creating a “lost generation” of wasted opportunities and squandered potential.
That is why I pledge that the United Nations will go deeper in identifying the best practices and helping countries deliver on education, skills, training, and job-rich growth for young people.
Ladies and gentlemen, Economic empowerment and political empowerment go hand-in-hand. Technology, education and awareness are combining to give young people a voice like never before. And they are using it. They are standing up for rights and against discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation. They are leading the way for sustainable solutions and green development. They are putting inequality on the global agenda. Our job is to help them build the future they want.
Above all, young people have told me they want a seat at the table. They want a real voice in shaping the policies that shape their lives. The priorities of young people should be just as prominent in our halls as they are on the streets and squares. They should be just as present in our meeting space as they are in cyberspace.
I am determined to bring the United Nations closer to people and make it more relevant to young people. That is one reason we will expand the UN Volunteer Programme. Today, the average age of UN Volunteers is 37 – we will open the doors for young people and are looking for support. But that is just the beginning. We must put a special focus where the challenges of empowering women and empowering youth come together – and that is in the lives of young women.
Young women are potential engines of economic advancement. They are drivers of democratic reform.
Yet far too often – a combination of obstacles including discrimination, social pressure, early marriage – hold them back. These forces set in motion a chain of unequal opportunities that last a lifetime. Young women must have the tools to participate fully in economic life and to have their voices heard in decision-making at all levels.
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