Let's Take Trade and Youth Seriously: Making Trade Work for Young Jobseekers Requires Identifying and Removing Barriers

By Seiermann, Julia | International Trade Forum, April-June 2018 | Go to article overview

Let's Take Trade and Youth Seriously: Making Trade Work for Young Jobseekers Requires Identifying and Removing Barriers


Seiermann, Julia, International Trade Forum


Today's youth are more educated than any previous generation. However, for many of them this does not translate into economic opportunities. Some 13.5% of young people aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed in 2017 compared to only 5.5% of the working-age population, according to the International Labour Organization.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly recognize the need to 'achieve full and productive employment and decent work' for young people (SDG target 8.5) and 'substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training' (target 8.6). International trade is a means of implementation of the SDGs and is widely recognized for its potential to create jobs if accompanied by appropriate policies. Here's how we make trade work for young people too.

1. UNDERSTAND TRADE'S YOUTH IMPACT

We know that international trade creates winners and losers and that its impact varies for different groups of the population. For example, we know that trade might not have the same impact on men and on women, or on skilled and unskilled workers. However, we know surprisingly little about how trade affects young people. To design trade policies that help youth we must first understand the mechanisms through which globalization changes opportunities for young workers and entrepreneurs. We therefore need to substantially increase both theoretical and empirical research on this topic.

2. MAINSTREAM YOUTH IN TRADE POLICY

In trade policymaking, gender mainstreaming is becoming increasingly common. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) developed a Trade and Gender Toolbox to support countries in the assessment of the gender impact of trade policy, while a new generation of free trade agreements includes chapters on trade and gender. If trade can help women, it can help young people, too. We should learn from the gender mainstreaming experience and, whenever appropriate, adapt these tools for youth mainstreaming. The good news for both research and policy mainstreaming is that we often already have the necessary data to focus on youth as many data sources are disaggregated by age.

3. EMBRACE YOUNG PEOPLE

One of the main reasons globalization (and, for that matter, technological progress) creates winners and losers is that many people have difficulty adapting to changing skills requirements. …

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