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Generation Lost

by Brandon Edmonds / 01.10.2010

A new report “Global Employment Trends for Youth (2010)” by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says 81 million “young people” (15-24) are out of work around the world. This is the highest on record. Young people are “the most vulnerable section of the working class and will bear the brunt of joblessness”. On top of that there are 152 million young “working poor” stuck in extreme poverty (living on less than like ten bucks a day). They have “jobs” but not very good ones. Not good enough to hang out, buy rad clothes or go on hot dates that end in sex.

“In developing countries,” the ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said, “crisis pervades the daily life of the poor. The effects of the economic and financial crisis threaten to exacerbate the pre-existing decent work deficits among youth. The result is that the number of young people stuck in working poverty grows and the cycle of working poverty persists through at least another generation.”

If you ever wondered what “irony” is – maybe a smarter person once said something about it around you (and you had to pretend to get it) – then here it is: lots of young people are unemployed – suffering – but this is the United Nations International Year of Youth. That’s irony.

Capitalism is wasteful when it comes to fulfilling “human potential” but I’m not going to offer “solutions” or alternatives because that’s fucking hard and it’s already been done. See that bearded alt hipster bro’s massive book Das Kapital (by Karl Marx). In that book the working class is given superpowers by History. The working class rises up to take over the world by beating the ruling class in a Revolution. (If everyone is unemployed though, isn’t “working class” a dumb name? Burn, Karl!).

There’s a lot more “raw data” to convince you things are bad.

Youth unemployment has increased ten percent over the last 3 years. It is especially bad in “developing economies” where 90% of young people live. SA has the worst rate of youth unemployment internationally. The legacy of you know what persists. 53% of young blacks are jobless. A figure 3 times worse than young whites. Only 2 in 5 South Africans of working age have jobs.

Youth Unemployed

A million new young people in South Asia seek employment annually. It’s 2.2 million in sub-Saharan Africa. And 20% of youth in the middle east and North Africa are unemployed. 3 in 5 unemployed in Africa – where there are ‘few or no formal employment opportunities’ – are young. In lower income countries, according to the report, “the impact of the crisis is felt more in shorter hours and reduced wages for the few who maintain wage and salaried employment and in rising vulnerable employment in an ‘increasingly crowded’ informal economy”.

But its not just the “emerging economies” where we know unemployment is commonplace. Youth unemployment in the EU is said to reach 24% this year. That figure doesn’t include young people who have quit looking. 45% of the increase in youth unemployment happened in ‘developed economies’. In the US and Britain. Which is new. Capitalism is failing people who “actually matter” in the eyes of the media. Regular young white middle class people right in the advertiser’s sweet spot.

Scarily, the ILO report deals only with the early stages of the economic downturn (2008) when massive stimulus packages were broadly adopted. As governments introduce “austerity measures” (slashing budgets for health care, education and so on) to pay for all the money given away to banks, “unemployment is projected to rise in every country”. The recent million strong public sector strike, costing a billion rand daily, which was vilified in the local media and saw state violence against protesters, was all about Zuma convincing markets and international investors that “his government can control the working class” and reduce public spending.

With so many young people out of work there is a “lost generation” alienated from the labour market. Jobless youth are going to be radically “scarred” by the experience of redundancy. Permanently “tainted”. The ILO report suggests this has revolutionary potential. “In many countries with stagnant economies and poor prospects for productive employment, young people are drawn to religious sects and revolutionary movements.”

Ready when you are.

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