Today, there are more young people in the world than at any other time in our history, says a report released by the United Nations. According to the study from the international body’s Population Fund, there are more than 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24. The highest concentration of young people is in low-income nations.
The main question moving forward now is: will this tidal wave of youth bring countries to new levels of prosperity or will it tear the nations’ finances, resources, infrastructure and public systems to shreds? It all depends on how governments, policymakers and corporations act today, says the authors of the UN report entitled "The Power of 1.8 billion."
“The emergence of a large youth population of unprecedented size can have a profound effect on any country,” the report concludes. “Whether that effect is positive or negative depends largely on how well governments respond to young people’s needs and enable them to engage fully and meaningfully in civic and economic affairs.”
One aspect of the report that is turning heads is the fact that global youth unemployment is in a crisis right now, stemming from the economic collapse a few years ago that decimated small- and medium-sized businesses, wiped out the bank accounts of millions of families and demolished the labor market. All of this, of course, has left millions of college graduates and overall youth without lucrative employment prospects.
UN officials present the case that the immense influx of working-age youth have the power to unleash a tsunami of economic growth. However, the report highlighted a number of obstacles that could hinder such a thing from transpiring, including a paucity of education, a lack of access to healthcare and growing poverty.
Indeed, report authors concur that there is some evidence that the public and private sectors are working together to invest in youth. However, the results are often dismal and worsen the global youth unemployment numbers, especially in the impoverished regions of the world.
For instance, nearly two-thirds of young people in low-income states are jobless, working at irregular jobs or not in school. Meanwhile, more than 73 million individuals between 15 and 24 were out of work last year, which accounts to more than one-third (36 percent) of the world’s unemployed people.
“When considered solely as a monolithic large number, young people may be improperly perceived by some as a drain on the national economy, on households or on health and education systems,” the UN Population Fund report stated. “But, when viewed as a font of untapped or unrealized potential, today’s youth cohort can only be seen as a resource, an asset, a force for economic and social progress and transformation.”
An End of the Minimum Wage?
Although leaders call for greater government intervention to remedy this massive problem, many free market economists recommend a number of measures to improve youth unemployment. However, one of the best suggestions may be temporarily suspending or eliminating minimum wage laws, at least for youth and minorities.
This isn’t something that is considered extreme. The Bank of Spain, a nation that suffers from one of the highest youth jobless figures in the world, recommended the government to suspend minimum wage laws for young people in order to combat the issue.
Here is what economist Murray N. Rothbard wrote about the minimum wage:
"In truth, there is only one way to regard a minimum wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period. The law says: it is illegal, and therefore criminal, for anyone to hire anyone else below the level of X dollars an hour. This means, plainly and simply, that a large number of free and voluntary wage contracts are now outlawed and hence that there will be a large amount of unemployment. Remember that the minimum wage law provides no jobs; it only outlaws them; and outlawed jobs are the inevitable result."
Abolishing the minimum wage isn’t exactly a popular policy considering that there are demonstrations occurring all over the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to raise the minimum wage. However, it may be the only solution to reverse the trend of jobless millennials.
Global youth unemployment has been a growing issue for years, and something has to be done, even if it isn’t considered kosher.