The International Youth Day
Finding decent and productive work for young people everywhere
International Youth Day aims to promote awareness, especially among youth, of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond. The World Programme of Action calls for action in 10 priority areas: education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure-time activities, girls and young women, and full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making. It also recommends action at national, regional and global levels to implement the Programme.
Youth -- defined by the United Nations as the age group between 15 and 24 years old -- make up one sixth of the world's population. The majority of these young men and women live in developing countries, and their numbers are expected to rise steeply into the twenty-first century.
The idea for International Youth Day was proposed in 1991 by the young people who were gathered inVienna, Austria, for the first session of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations System. The Forum recommended that an International Youth Day be declared, especially for fund-raising and promotional purposes, to support the United Nations Youth Fund in partnership with youth organizations. In 1998, a resolution proclaiming 12 August as International Youth Day was adopted by the first session of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, which was hosted by the Government of Portugal in cooperation with the United Nations (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998). That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/54/120 entitled "Policies and programmes involving youth" (17 December 1999).
The theme for this year's commemoration on International Youth Day, on 12 August, is related to youth employment and highlights the Secretary-General's Youth Employment Network (YEN) and the General Assembly resolution on promoting youth employment adopted at its 57th session in 2002.
Youth make up more than 40 per cent of the world's total unemployed. There are an estimated 66 million unemployed young people in the world today – an increase of nearly 10 million since 1965. Under-employment is also another growing concern. The majority of new jobs are low-paid and insecure. Increasingly, young people are turning to the informal sector for their livelihood, with little or no job protection, benefits, or prospects for the future." - Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, July 2001
500 million young women and men will enter the workforce within the next decade. While rapid globalisation and technological change offer new opportunities for productive work and incomes for the lucky few, for many working age young people, these trends only increase the vulnerability inherent in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Across the planet, millions of young women and men are failing to gain an entry into the workforce, and the disadvantage suffered by young women is greater. The vast majority of jobs available to youth are low paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement.
A generation without the hope of stable employment is a burden for all of society. Poor employment in the early stages of a young person's career can harm job prospects for life. Underemployed or unemployed youth will have less to spend as consumers or to save and invest, which will hurt employers and economies. The economic investment of governments in education and training will be wasted if young people do not move into productive jobs that enable them to pay taxes and support public services. Young women and men who find themselves alienated from society, frustrated by lack of opportunity and without means are sometimes are more vulnerable to involvement with illegal and criminal activities and are at risk of recruitment by armed groups.