Friday, April 22, 2011

Young unemployed… and forever?

Again, as part of the “Civil Society”, whatever that means, I am not too sure about that, I was present during the meetings last week in Washington of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. One of the most important issues discussed there, were the frightening figures of the huge youth unemployment in the world and that, from what I gathered, no one is really sure on how to solve. My comments on the issue, made in representation of my yet unborn grandchildren, were:

If youth wants to get employment they need to start demanding it more strongly. I am sure that if there was a Law that established that once the unemployment rate of youth exceeded a certain level there would be a lottery among all government bureaucrats aged fifty or more for instance, so that a large percentage of these would have to resign and give the youth an opportunity older than for instance fifty would have to resign so as to give the young some opportunities, would certainly energize the governments attention to this problem. Inside me I was hearing a little voice reminding me of that not fully confirmed Viking tradition of their elderly jumping voluntarily from a cliff, ättestupa, when not being any longer useful to society.

In the world the regulators have imposed on banks some capital requirements based on the risks of default of their clients, as perceived by the credit rating agencies. Since banks and markets have already incorporated that information when setting their interest rates, that means the same information gets considered twice, resulting in that the banks are excessively pushed towards what is officially perceived as being less riskier, the triple-A and some sovereigns, and away from what is considered as more “risky” like the small businesses and entrepreneurs, precisely those who have more chance of creating the future generation of jobs. The young should oppose this and require that the capital requirements of banks are better aligned with the potential of creating the jobs they need.

If a young person (or an old) have interests that keep them busy when they are without jobs it might suffice with giving them some food and clothing, but if they do not possess any “healthy” interest and could therefore be tempted by something bad, you would also need to place expensive policemen nest to them. In this respect I asked: “If we know that hundreds of thousands or millions of youth will find themselves without employment perhaps for life, what education can we give them?” A Master in Unemployment? In some respect this relates closely to the writings of Thorstein Veblen about the leisure class.

I also heard a very good debate about the recent incidents in some Arab countries. Most of the panelists held that what caused the explosions were not so much the existent inequalities, but the fact that these were perceived as being unjust. Absolutely, the young of nations where their governments have generation after generation wasted the revenues derived from valuable natural resources, like from oil, should demand these be paid out directly to them so as to have the opportunity of putting these to better use.

Something dramatic has to be done, NOW! As otherwise it would seem that the only opportunity many young unemployed will be able to get out of it, is when they move up, or down, to the group of unemployed old.

Translated by the author from El Universal, Caracas