Side-event: Ambassador Wittig on Youth Employment

May 30, 2013

(Opening remarks as delivered by Ambassador Wittig at a side-event on Youth Employment, co-organized by the German and the Tunesian Mission to the United Nations and the International Labour Organization)

"Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome all of you on the occasion of this panel discussion on the crucial subject of youth employment. 

The ILO estimates that 73mio young people are unemployed in 2013. The unemployment rates were highest in the Middle East and North Africa at 28.3% and 23.7% respectively. Youth unemployment is mostly a problem of developed countries. Developing countries where 90% of global youth population live face particular problems. Here, the creation of stable quality employment is the most important issue.

Germany decided to co-host this briefing together with the Permanent Mission of Tunisia and the ILO, because we wanted to bring the findings of ILO’s “Global Youth Employment Trend”-report to your attention. The report and the headlines of the news these days remind us one more time of two things:

First, youth unemployment is not a problem of certain individuals. It is a serious problem of societies, economies and nations as a whole.

And second, youth employment problems have to be addressed quickly. We need quick, tangible results from measures that show lasting positive effects. We cannot afford to loose whole generations of young people!

Looking at the report, we see that there is some hope. Not all countries are facing the same problems and some have made considerable progress. The recipes are not simple. We are facing multi-layered problems. Germany supported the “ILO Call for Action” that will be presented later today with its multi-layered approach from the very beginning.

The “youth employment crisis” that today's invitation refers to, is not limited to developing countries. Many developed countries are also facing a rising number of young unemployed people. The report points at the EU with an average of 22.6% in 2012.

Allow me some remarks on my own country:

Germany managed to half the youth unemployment rate from 15.7% in 2005 to 8.2% in 2012. Together with Austria, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland we are among those countries with one-digit youth unemployment rates.

One important element for this success is our dual system for technical and vocational training in combination with the “vocational training pact”. This pact that - now being introduced at the European level as well - was concluded between the government and the employers association. Every young person who is willing and able to undertake vocational training is to be offered a training contract. And we have proven that we can deliver: 600,000 new training contracts were offered on average every year for young people leaving school. We know that this system as a whole cannot be replicated everywhere, but we are ready to share our experiences so that elements can be taken up elsewhere.

Germany is also pushing for quick responses on the European level. 6bn Euro will be devoted in Europe for the fight against youth unemployment from 2014 – 2020 in regions where unemployment exceeds 25%. Credit lines will be linked to the creation of decent and stable employment for youth, the so-called “New Deal for Europe”. And we welcome that youth employment continues to be a topic on the G20-agenda.

In supporting our partner countries, we have achieved positive results with an integrated approach consisting of:

- first, measures such as vocational education and training directed at enhancing employability and labor supply,

- second, labor demand interventions such as private sector development to create new jobs, 

- thirdly, active labor market policies and instruments to help new entrants in the labour market through measures like youth social work or mentoring schemes by senior entrepreneurs and 

- last but not least overall economic policy measures ranging from macroeconomic policies to health or infrastructure that help to create an enabling environment.

In Sierra Leone, this approach was applied to create or improve more than 20,000 rural jobs for young people – many of them former civil war combatants.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fight for youth employment is a central inter-generational challenge that every government has to face at the national level. It addresses governments, social partners and the international community in their respective areas of responsibilities. There are no quick fixes and there are no magic one-size fits all solutions. But the ILO Call for Action analyses the situation in different regions of the world and gives indications for specific recommendations that can be taken up by individual countries. The most recent figures from the ILO “Global Employment Trends for Youth” that were released on 8 May in Geneva - and the panel discussion today - will give us an idea where we stand and what we have to do next so that we do not lose this generation.

Thank you very much for your attention."

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