No end in sight
Youth unemployment hits record high
Published Aug 29, 2010 11:03 PM
According to the Aug. 11 “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010”
report by the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, more than 82
million young people aged 16-25, or 13 percent of 620 million young workers
across the world, are unemployed.
Even this record high number evades the reality of global mass unemployment,
underemployment and poverty faced by young workers. They generally work in
low-wage jobs with no benefits or job security and live in constant desperation
and uncertainty. One-quarter of all employed youth — or 152 million
— remain in extreme poverty, living in households making less than $1.25
More than half of young people in the U.S., ages 16-24, do not have jobs.
According to a study by the AFL-CIO, one in three young workers lives with
their parents. About a third are uninsured and a third cannot pay their bills.
Seven in 10 do not have enough money to cover two months of living
Youth from oppressed communities are being hit the hardest by the capitalist
crisis. Black youth face unemployment rates above 50 percent. National Public
Radio’s program “All Things Considered” reports that fewer
than 14 in 100 young Black men have jobs. Latino/a youth face similarly high
rates of unemployment.
Already given fewer chances to get a job, even with no benefits, youth from
oppressed communities, including immigrants, face higher unemployment and more
competition for low-wage jobs. They have been impacted by the loss of millions
of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in the past decade, as well as the current
recession. They are subjected to racist discrimination and are often the last
hired and first fired if they are hired at all.
The current large pool of unemployed workers can be tapped to replace workers
who attempt to organize against the economic inequality of capitalism.
The capitalist class and the state increasingly criminalize and imprison youth
of color, instead of providing living-wage jobs and benefits.
While young people see fewer job opportunities, the U.S. military sees
recruitment potential. Since the economic crisis began, military recruiters,
who falsely promise funding for college, are finding it easier to recruit young
people who can’t find jobs or afford to attend college. Recruitment
levels are at their highest since before 2003, especially among working-class
youth, including men and women from oppressed communities.
While the growth of low-wage jobs has been traditionally high among women
workers, increased job competition has hurt women workers. Young women face a
global unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, as opposed to the rate of 12.9
percent for young men, which is very high, too.
Lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer youth face increasing uncertainty, as well as few
protections from discrimination and bigotry. With the lack of rights at work,
as well as the lack of high-paying union jobs that offer job security and
protections for them and all workers, this precariousness and inequality will
The attacks on public education are increasing. State and local governments are
cutting funds for education at all levels. There is more of a push to train
young workers for a world of low-wage jobs, instead of providing higher
Local governments are shutting down high schools, especially those which are
attended mostly by students of color. This is a result of the “Race to
the Top,” the Obama administration’s answer to the tremendously
unpopular Bush administration policy of “No Child Left Behind.”
Tuition is skyrocketing at public and private universities, such as the 32
percent hike at the University of California system last year. Meanwhile, class
sizes are getting bigger. There are fewer living wage jobs to help students pay
off their mountain of debt.
Youth need jobs. They need to organize to get them. On Oct. 2, young people
will be fighting for jobs in a Youth and Students Contingent at the One Nation
March in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 7, youth worldwide will unite to defend their
right to an education. These are important mobilizations, as youth and all
workers must continue to build a fightback movement.
Youth have always been key to building popular struggles, whether for Black
liberation, LGBTQ rights, opposing war or in student movements. With their
energy, excitement and passion youth must continue to fight for a better world,
one that enshrines their rights to an education, a job or an income, and
equality for all people.
Scott Williams is a member of Raleigh Fight Imperialism, Stand
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