Promoting a smooth transition from school to work, and ensuring that youth are given
the opportunities to move on in their careers and lives, have long been issues of
fundamental importance for our economies and societies. Today, they are even more
pressing challenges as the global economy emerges from the worst crisis of the past
50 years. Indeed, young people have borne much of the brunt of the recent jobs crisis.
The youth unemployment rate is approaching 20% in the OECD area, with nearly 4 million
more youth among the unemployed than at the end of 2007. The initial experience in
the labour market has a profound influence on later working life. Getting off to a
good start facilitates youth integration into the world of work and lays the foundation
for a good career, while it can be difficult to catch up after an initial failure.
In particular, the jobs crisis is likely to leave long-lasting “scarring” effects
on some of the current generation of school-leavers, particularly if they face multiple
disadvantages, such as having low skills and also coming from a disadvantaged background. Tackling
the youth jobs crisis requires a strong commitment from all: the youth themselves,
the government through well-targeted and effective policy measures, social partners
though their participation in the dialogue, and other key actors – such as teachers,
practitioners and parents – who can really make a difference to investing in youth. This
report makes an important contribution to a new agenda of youth-friendly employment
policies and practices. It analyses the situation of youth employment and unemployment
in the context of the jobs crisis and identifies successful policy measures in OECD
countries. But it also discusses structural reforms in education and in the labour
market that can facilitate the transition from school to work. The report draws on
both recent data and the main lessons that emerged from the 16 country reviews conducted
as part of the OECD Jobs for Youth/Des emplois pour les jeunes programme.