Youth unemployment rate highest in Spain,
lowest in Austria and Switzerland

In Spain, more than 40% of young people age 24 and under who are looking for work fail to find it. At the other end of the scale, in Austria and Switzerland, the youth unemployment rate is only 6%.

More than a quarter of the 22 industrialized countries providing information have youth unemployment rates above 20%. In 10 of the countries, female unemployment rates are higher than those of males, while in 8 countries, young men have a harder time finding jobs than young women.

The data include only those young people of a specified age, usually 15 through 24, who are looking for work. A countryís youth unemployment rate is the number of youth seeking employment as a percentage of the total number of working and work-seeking youth. In every country, the youth unemployment rate is higher than the total unemployment rate.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for countries to set minimum ages for employment, regulate conditions of work and protect children from work that threatens their health, education or development (article 32). The International Labour Organizationís general minimum age of 15 years (provided this is not less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling) is the most widely used standard.

Youth unemployment results in social and economic trauma at a personal, community and national level. For young people, work is more than earning an income: It is a critical phase in the transition from dependent childhood to independent adulthood and a source of emotional and social well-being. Although the links between youth employment and crime are tenuous, research affirms the association between unemployment and a decline in psychological health.

While the phenomenon is disturbing, it is not new: 10 years ago, youth unemployment rates varied from 5% to 48% in industrialized countries; today, they vary from 6% to 43%. By seeking solutions to the problem—such as promoting ways to combine education and work—countries can address labour marketsí ever increasing demand for higher skills and the best interests of young people.


Youth unemployment rates
Unemployed youth age 24 and below
% unemployed
male female total
Spain 37 51 43
Finland 32 36 34
Italy 29 39 34
France 26 32 29
Greece 20 37 28
Belgium 19 27 22
Sweden 22 22 22
Ireland 18 16 17
Australia 17 16 16
Canada 19 14 16
Portugal 13 20 16
New Zealand 16 14 15
United Kingdom 16 11 14
United States 13 11 12
Germany 11 9 10
Netherlands 9 11 10
Norway 11 9 10
Luxembourg 8 8 8
Denmark 6 9 7
Japan 7 7 7
Austria 4 7 6
Switzerland 6 6 6

Source: Eurostat news release no. 3/97, 1997; OECD, OECD in Figures, 1996.
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