Global youth unemployment: powder keg to explode capitalism?

The statistics are alarming. Young people make up 17 percent of the world’s population, but 40 percent of its unemployed. Official reports say the global unemployment rate is 4.5 percent, while the world youth unemployment rate is 12.6 percent. However, it’s really much higher.

Global youth unemployment/underemployment: myths vs facts

The world has 1.2 billion youth between the ages of 15 to 24. Eighty-seven percent live in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. About 30 percent of the world’s youth, or 357 million, are not in school or employed. Of those employed in “developing” countries, 536 million are underemployed, compared with 1.5 million in the 27 countries in the European Union. The highest rates of youth unemployment are found in Northern Africa and the Middle East, according to the World Economic Forum, an international nonprofit based in Switzerland.

While statistics compiled by pro-capitalist organizations claim that only 75 million young people across the world are technically “unemployed,” the reality is that 903.5 million of the world’s youth are unemployed, underemployed or pushed out of the workforce. That’s more like 75.2 percent — not 12.6 percent — who need full-time jobs at livable wages. The other 24.8 percent are in school or working full time.

What is the cause of global youth unemployment? Between 1985 and 2000, the global workforce increased from 2.5 billion to 6 billion, according to the “Doubling the Global Workforce” report by economist Robert B. Freeman. The increase in the number of workers is, in part, due to the opening up of China, Russia, Eastern Europe and many other parts of the world to global labor competition.

Capitalist globalization has meant greater exploitation and lower wages for workers worldwide. Meanwhile, increasing automation and high technology remove the need for many skilled workers. Robots have replaced many of the entry- level job positions that young workers would have traditionally filled.

‘Jobless recoveries’ hit U.S. youth

Most people believe that education is the key to employment. This is taught to us by our teachers, our parents and the media. Yet this turns out to be a myth on a systemic level.

In the U.S., around 1.7 million students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2013, more than ever. A majority will spend time unemployed after graduation. A third will move back in with their parents. Over the next two years, 40 percent will work at jobs that don’t require a college degree.

In fact, a majority of the unemployed in the U.S. are under 34. Meanwhile, the banks are calling. Student debt crossed the $1 trillion mark last year. The average student debt is around $30,000, having grown 63 percent in less than a decade.

Between the so-called ends of the last two economic crises in the U.S., between 2003 and 2010, 11 million jobs were lost here. These “jobless recoveries” stem from the growth of the global workforce and the increase in the use of technology to create more productive equipment.

If jobless recoveries and student debt aren’t too much for young people, they are berated with commentary about how they studied the wrong subjects, and how employers in the U.S. would love to give us jobs, if only we had the right skills. This “skills gap,” caused by the replacement of workers by technology, has resulted from employers refusing to pay for training their employees, not that students are learning how to operate high technology as undergraduates.

Unemployed youth of the world: rise up

It is a basic tenet of Marxism that too much of one thing becomes its opposite. Too much unemployment can lead to workers taking over power from the bosses and providing jobs for all.

Youth unemployment has the power to explode capitalism and imperialism on a global scale. Unemployed young people need to organize and to assert their rights to have a future. The explosion of the Arab Spring occurred in 2011; it was started in Tunisia by jobless youth. There, 40 percent of university graduates are unemployed, while 24 percent of nongraduates are unemployed.

The same phenomenon has exploded in the massive assembly movements of youth in Spain and Greece, and in the Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S. in 2011. Nothing has changed since then. In fact, our living conditions have only worsened.

Youth will be at the lead of militant resistance to capitalist austerity, exploitation, and oppression. Young people — women, people of color, workers, students and members of the LGBTQ communities — must unite to defeat dead-end capitalism and to replace it with the only system fit for humanity: socialism.