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According to estimates by the International Labor Organization, the world labor force currently numbers approximately 3 billion people, out of which 23 to 30% are underemployed and about 140 million are fully unemployed. The severity and consistently high levels of youth unemployment worldwide are of special concern. The ILO estimates that there are about 60 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who are presently in search of work but cannot find it.

Viewing youth employment in a wider context

At the outset, the approach to youth employment needs to be qualified in two ways:

Youth employment is a subset of total employment

While the focus of the YES initiative is on youth employment, this challenge has to be viewed as a subset of the wider issue of providing employment opportunities for all who seek them. Although strategies may target specific sections of the population, the process of employment generation is essentially the same for all ages and levels of the population. In reality it is difficult to segregate the problem of youth employment from that of employment in general, since labor markets do not recognize or respect any such distinctions. Although the Summit should naturally emphasize strategies that directly benefit youth employment, it is important to keep in mind that directly or indirectly employment generation for people at any level of the society and in any age group will open up greater opportunities for youth employment. Therefore, the summit should examine the issue of employment generation in general and then narrow down its focus to policies and strategies concentrating on the young.

Employment is no longer a national issue

The process of globalization is rapidly converting employment from a national into a global issue as well as a global opportunity. The positive contribution to the world economy of strong US economic growth, the negative impact of the East Asian financial crisis, and widespread public concern regarding the impact of World Trade Organization agreements are expressions of this fact. Demographic trends and technological developments in the industrialized world will generate new types of employment opportunities for developing countries, stimulating further growth of international migration to developed countries, remittances from workers overseas to developing countries, and out-locating service jobs made possible by the Internet. The opportunity to create 500 million jobs for youth in the coming decade is a global opportunity and will require a global perspective. Action may be primarily focused at the national level, but understanding must encompass changes taking place around the whole world.

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