Globe, Latin America, Lifestyle, Youth

The young unemployed: heading for starvation

Two well-known international problems – unemployment and underemployment –  also spell starvation for the millions of young people blighted by them in Latin America and the Caribbean: not to downplay the gravity of these problems in other parts of the world.



destino jovenes 21Rafael Contreras


The luscious green subcontinent of Latin America is home to more than 520 million people. Approximately 145 million of them comprise what is known as the the “economically active population” (EAP).

For many agencies such as the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), finding a job in this region is no easy task: particularly, if the individual is between the ages of 15 and 24.

That famous announcement “youth with experience wanted,” found in the classified section of newspapers normally brings with it long queues of applicants seeking to fill a solitary position – and this, after weeks of constant fruitless searching.

destino jovenes 30These are the findings of the ILO’s latest report on global youth which underlines the fact that one in every two unemployed individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean are young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

According to the agency’s statistics, in 2011, 18.7% of young people across the world were unemployed, or were in search of, but unable to find, work.

In Latin America, which is home to 9% of the world’s youth, this represents 29% of the working population. The average youth unemployment rate is 18.7% and almost three times greater than that of the over-25s.


destino jovenes 24Below the poverty line

For those suffering the anguish of unemployment the problem goes beyond the mere inability to find some practical pursuit to afford them an income on which to live.

According to ILO statistics, some 16.7 million young people who managed to find a job in Latin America and the Caribbean still live below the US$1/day poverty line.

And, what is yet more alarming, this represents 36% of young working people in the region or one in every three young workers.

Expressed in simpler terms, for those young people who manage to overcome the difficulties involved in getting a job, even this turns out to fall far short of providing them with the necessary income for meeting their basic food and accommodation costs.

destino jovenes 26In addition, paltry unemployment benefits, non-existent in a great number of Latin American countries, fail to cover the most basic of needs required to prevent the unemployed and their family members from falling into the most appalling conditions of poverty.

Poverty, disease and malnutrition are endemic in poor areas of Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico and other countries whose basic economic indicators rank among the most alarming in the region.

And indeed, the ILO report indicates that the percentage of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean living on less than one or two dollars a day has changed little over the last decade.

destino jovenes 34According to UN figures, as previously stated, in 2011 18.7% of the world’s younger generation are unemployed, that is to say, are in search of, but unable to find, work. In addition, this global rate of youth unemployment is twice the 9.3% of global unemployment expressed across all ages.

Added to all this is the fact that 13.3% of working young people in the region live in conditions of extreme poverty, that is to say, they barely manage to survive.

destino jovenes 20For the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and as previously stated,the percentage of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean living on US$1 or US$2 a day has changed little over the last decade: at 13.8% and 35.6% respectively these levels are well below the global average for 2005.

According to ECLAC’s expert, Jorge Guerra, the industries attracting the largest percentage of young workers are the service sectors, with 62%.

The farming sector, which attracts 18%, still continues to represent an important industry, when it comes to providing a tool for creating jobs for young people and alleviating poverty in the region.

Ecuador plan 23Many young people in the region are not in work, but are in education. ECLAC has refereed to that group of young people who are neither in work nor seeking employment as “inactive” and students figure among this group.

Levels of youth “inactivity” have risen by five percent over the last decade. Among this group women make up the largest proportion:  60.1% of young women between 15 and 24 in the region are neither in nor seeking employment.


destino jovenes 23Not in employment or education

Set within the above context, the ILO reveals a worrying increase in the number of young people neither in employment nor education. 21% of young people find themselves in this position in Latin America compared with 36% in Central and Eastern Europe, 28% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 15% in developed economies and the European Union.

The report points out that “an idle youth is costly” not only from the point of view of the individual concerned – for whom a sense of being weak, inadequate and unwanted arises – but also from a wider social and economic perspective: such as with the reduction in the domestic rate of saving, the reduction in levels of business investment, and the reduction in spending on social programs needed for crime and drug prevention. (PL)


(Translated by Nigel Conibear – Email:



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