The number of young people currently not in employment, education or training (NEET) is rising, and young women are more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to be affected, according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report.

Young people (those aged 15-24) who are employed also face a greater risk than older workers of losing their jobs because of automation, and those with vocational training are particularly vulnerable, the report shows. “This reflects how the occupation-specific skills imparted by vocational training tend to become obsolete faster… than general education skills,” the report says. It calls for vocational training programmes to be revised and modernized so that they meet the changing demands of the digital economy.

The latest Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020: Technology and the future of jobs (GET Youth 2020) shows that, since the previous GET Youth report in 2017, an upward trend in NEET status has emerged. In 2016 there were 259 million young people classified as NEET, which rose to an estimated 267 million in 2019 and is projected to continue rising to 273 million in 2021. In percentage terms the trend also upwards – from 21.7 per cent in 2015 to 22.4 per cent in 2020. These trends imply that the target set by the international community to substantially reduce the NEET rate by 2020 will be missed.

There are currently around 1.3 billion young people globally, of whom 267 million are classified as NEET. Two-thirds, or 181 million, of NEETs are young women. “Too many young people around the world are becoming detached from education and the labour market, which can damage their long-term prospects, as well as ultimately undermine the social and economic development of their countries,” said Sangheon Lee, Director of the Employment Policy Department of the ILO. “But the reasons why they become NEET vary enormously. The challenge will be to balance the flexible approach needed to reach these young people with the strong policies and actions necessary to make an impact. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach won’t work.”

GET Youth 2020 shows that those who do complete tertiary education are less likely to find their jobs replaced by automation. However, they face other issues because the rapid rise in the number of young people with a degree in the labour force has outpaced the demand for graduate labour, pushing down graduate wages. “Not enough jobs are being created for these young people, meaning the potential of millions is not being properly tapped,” said Sukti Dasgupta, Chief of the Employment and Labour Market Policies branch of the ILO Employment Policy Department. “We can’t afford to waste this talent or this investment in learning if we are to meet the challenges posed by technology, climate change, inequality and demographics. We need integrated policy frameworks and responsive training systems, designed using dialogue between governments, workers and employers.”



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