By Omoh Gabriel

At the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, youth unemployment took center stage. Here is a brief report of a panel discussion in Davos.

Global business and public sector leaders were in Davos Swizerland engaged in debate about the growing youth unemployment which many have said is growing in an uncomfortable proportion. The panel discussion was made up of Nik Gowing, Omar K. Alghanim, Dominic Barton, Aliko Dangote, Fatima Muneer. Taking the lead in the discussion Mr. Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director, McKinsey & Company, United Kingdom said “There is a sense that youth unemployment is more of a cocktail conversation right now but we need to start seeing this as a pandemic.”

According to him around the world, youth unemployment is growing in uncomfortable proportions. In India, which has one of the largest populations of young people in the world, 75 million youth are unemployed and more than 1 million people are added to the workforce each day. In Saudi Arabia, some 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 30 and they are not finding jobs.

In Nigeria, youth unemployment is as high as 50%. From Abuja to Seattle, the number of jobless youth is a global phenomenon. The issue might not be dominating global headlines, but Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria, signalled that “our entire society is in danger of destruction” unless we pay attention to this huge segment of our young and jobless global population.

According to Panelist at the Forum “This trend is occurring at a time when technology is moving ever faster and transforming the labour market. As robotics, automation and 3D printing play a larger role in the economy; future jobs for young people will invariably take a hit. Looking back to the 1990s, the big three US motor vehicle companies – Chrysler, Ford and General Motors – collectively hired 1.2 million employees. Today, the big three companies in Silicon Valley – Google, Facebook and Apple – together employ a total 134,000 people.

Traditional ideas about “work”’ are also being turned upside down. It is perhaps more fitting to consider employment as participating in the economy. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb or budding entrepreneurs in India learning skills from YouTube and monetizing this knowledge at the local market are examples of a new way to understand the participatory economic model.

The McKinsey new problems call for fresh approaches and at the core of the youth unemployment problem is a glaring skills gap. Surveys by McKinsey show that 75 per cent of university professors believe they are adequately preparing their students for the workforce. Conversely, only 40 per cent of employers take the same view.



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