Youth Unemployment — A Global Epidemic (Part I)

In today’s sour economy, there’s an issue most us are missing. Preoccupied with our own jobs, we’re blind to something that may be far more problematic to our future.

I’m talking about a global epidemic — the volume of youth who are unemployed.  When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, it was normal for 16-year-olds in my community to have a job. Today, it is abnormal. Most U.S. teens don’t work. Of those who say they actually want to work, the unemployment rate stands at over 27%, the highest rate of any age demographic. According to Julie Borowski, the rate is over 50% for African-American teens.

According to The Guardian last week, former Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, warned against global youth unemployment, saying it’s reached “epidemic proportions.” He challenged the U.S. to lead the way in getting kids back to work. “Unemployment is an international time bomb for both the developed and developing worlds,” Brown said.

Let’s bring the issue closer to home. Why is it such a big deal for our youth to work?

First, students who work learn life skills that other kids may not learn. What’s more, those who begin working as teenagers are put at a considerable advantage. Studies have shown that workers who do not start working as teenagers will ultimately suffer from longer periods of unemployment and lower long-term wages. High teenage employment has numerous positive externalities — employed teenagers have a better chance at having a successful productive future career and are less likely to commit crimes. In addition, they’re able to gain experience, a sense of responsibility and money management skills while building their resumes. Youth unemployment is already at the highest levels since WWII. Any minimum wage hike will result in the youth losing more jobs at an unprecedented rate. I will talk more about this in tomorrow’s blog.

So here’s a question for you — Do you have teens or young adults in your life? If so, may I suggest the following ideas?

1. Introduce them to working for an income as early as possible. Perhaps cut an extracurricular activity and add a few hours working on a job, even if it’s at home.

2. Talk to them about the value of being a contributor, not just a consumer in our society. This is a crucial missing life lesson for many kids.

3. If they want more time with their friends, challenge them to work on something together and put the proceeds they earn toward a mutually shared goal.

For a game plan on preparing kids for adulthood, check out: You’ll find articles and ideas that I hope are helpful for you. If you’re interested, you can purchase a copy of my newest book, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future on there, too.

Tomorrow, I’ll go deeper and discuss the bigger picture on why this issue is so key.


Youth Unemployment — A Global Epidemic (Part I)