I’m delighted to join the 23 members of the Youthwise initiative on this kick-off meeting, together with Ambassador Pénicaud. Tapping into the minds of our youth and gaining your perspectives and experiences is paramount to tackling the challenges that we face today.
Millions of lives have been lost and millions more people are facing the harsh economic and social consequences of a pandemic, with the world’s most vulnerable bearing the brunt of this crisis.
The global economic outlook is still uncertain and a number of countries are experiencing new crushing waves of the pandemic, not least India. Although our latest analysis projects global GDP to grow 5.6% for 2021 and 4% in 2022, uncertainty remains very high, and the pace of the recovery still depends on the speed of vaccination and the management of the health crisis.
The impact of the crisis is felt everywhere, in education, in finding jobs, in social distancing, in the closure of cafes and bars, or in travelling restrictions. Youth unemployment rate surged to nearly 20% in April 2020, and has only partially recovered since, falling to nearly 14% in February 2021, but is still significantly above pre-pandemic rates. The risk that COVID-19 will have a scarring effect on your future job prospects is very high.
A year of school shutdowns leads to social isolation, stress and mental-health issues. Anxiety and depression have risen, hitting young people hardest. According to the recent OECD analysis, the top concern for the 15 to 24 year-olds was the crisis’ impact on their mental health. OECD’s recent Risks that Matter survey underlines that young people are also worried about jobs and finances, and that many may have had difficulties making ends meet during the crisis.
This is why we must focus on a recovery that is not just economic. It must also be systemic, one which places us on a sustainable, resilient and inclusive path – one that works for all generations. We must not repeat the measures in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when the early withdrawal of government support resulted in weak job creation. It took a whole decade for the OECD youth unemployment rate to return to levels seen in 2008.
OECD data show that 40% of young people feel that the government does not incorporate their views into policy making. To counter increasing uncertainties, distrust and populism, we are currently witnessing a wave of deliberative democracy, bringing young people into this process.
We must encourage all young people to participate in the conversation, no matter their gender, race or age, or their background. There are other profoundly important challenges with which youth will be grappling with long after we have defeated the virus – inequalities, climate change, to name just two. We need intergenerational efforts and must join forces to find solutions together. Climate is our most important intergenerational responsibility to save the planet!
With this crisis comes a duty to make change for the better. At the OECD, we know about the power of better policy for better lives. You are crucial to this - we welcome all that you bring, your diversity, your intelligence, your creativity, your energy and ambitions. We need you to tell us about what you think is and is not working, to tell us about what kind of policies you want to see. As you know, we will be presenting the updated Youth Action Plan to the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting later this month, and we hope that your discussions in Youthwise will contribute to its implementation. Your voices will be heard!
So, count on the OECD. We will continue working with you and for you in the years to come. I look forward to the group’s active work going forward. Together, we can build a transformative recovery that works for all.