By Scott Williams
Published Aug 29, 2010 11:03 PM
According to the Aug. 11 “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010” report by the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, more than 82 million young people aged 16-25, or 13 percent of 620 million young workers across the world, are unemployed.
Even this record high number evades the reality of global mass unemployment, underemployment and poverty faced by young workers. They generally work in low-wage jobs with no benefits or job security and live in constant desperation and uncertainty. One-quarter of all employed youth — or 152 million — remain in extreme poverty, living in households making less than $1.25 per day.
More than half of young people in the U.S., ages 16-24, do not have jobs. According to a study by the AFL-CIO, one in three young workers lives with their parents. About a third are uninsured and a third cannot pay their bills. Seven in 10 do not have enough money to cover two months of living expenses.
Youth from oppressed communities are being hit the hardest by the capitalist crisis. Black youth face unemployment rates above 50 percent. National Public Radio’s program “All Things Considered” reports that fewer than 14 in 100 young Black men have jobs. Latino/a youth face similarly high rates of unemployment.
Already given fewer chances to get a job, even with no benefits, youth from oppressed communities, including immigrants, face higher unemployment and more competition for low-wage jobs. They have been impacted by the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in the past decade, as well as the current recession. They are subjected to racist discrimination and are often the last hired and first fired if they are hired at all.
The current large pool of unemployed workers can be tapped to replace workers who attempt to organize against the economic inequality of capitalism.
The capitalist class and the state increasingly criminalize and imprison youth of color, instead of providing living-wage jobs and benefits.
While young people see fewer job opportunities, the U.S. military sees recruitment potential. Since the economic crisis began, military recruiters, who falsely promise funding for college, are finding it easier to recruit young people who can’t find jobs or afford to attend college. Recruitment levels are at their highest since before 2003, especially among working-class youth, including men and women from oppressed communities.
While the growth of low-wage jobs has been traditionally high among women workers, increased job competition has hurt women workers. Young women face a global unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, as opposed to the rate of 12.9 percent for young men, which is very high, too.
Lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer youth face increasing uncertainty, as well as few protections from discrimination and bigotry. With the lack of rights at work, as well as the lack of high-paying union jobs that offer job security and protections for them and all workers, this precariousness and inequality will only continue.
The attacks on public education are increasing. State and local governments are cutting funds for education at all levels. There is more of a push to train young workers for a world of low-wage jobs, instead of providing higher education.
Local governments are shutting down high schools, especially those which are attended mostly by students of color. This is a result of the “Race to the Top,” the Obama administration’s answer to the tremendously unpopular Bush administration policy of “No Child Left Behind.”
Tuition is skyrocketing at public and private universities, such as the 32 percent hike at the University of California system last year. Meanwhile, class sizes are getting bigger. There are fewer living wage jobs to help students pay off their mountain of debt.
Youth need jobs. They need to organize to get them. On Oct. 2, young people will be fighting for jobs in a Youth and Students Contingent at the One Nation March in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 7, youth worldwide will unite to defend their right to an education. These are important mobilizations, as youth and all workers must continue to build a fightback movement.
Youth have always been key to building popular struggles, whether for Black liberation, LGBTQ rights, opposing war or in student movements. With their energy, excitement and passion youth must continue to fight for a better world, one that enshrines their rights to an education, a job or an income, and equality for all people.
Scott Williams is a member of Raleigh Fight Imperialism, Stand Together.
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