A number of initiatives that have the support of both national and international organizations are yielding positive results when it comes to one of the hemisphere's most serious problems: youth unemployment. This situation affects millions of young people, many of whom are trapped in poorly paid jobs with few prospects for progress and low or nonexistent social protection or health coverage.
The statistics tell the story: Unemployment and poverty have a marked affect on young people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that of the 57 million Latin Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 who either work or want to work, 9.5 million are jobless. These young people--part of the "lost decade" born between 1980 and 1990--account for 42 percent of the region's total unemployment.
In recent years, the countries of North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean have enjoyed strong economic development. However, future growth will depend on the creation of an entrepreneurial workforce that is stable, educated, and has the capacity and training to seize short- and long-term opportunities. Achieving economic growth and social development depends on young people being able to reach their potential not only as employees, but also as employers.
According to a report prepared for the ILO's Sixteenth American Regional Meeting held in Brasilia, the promotion of youth entrepreneurship is a critical way to generate high-quality jobs for the region's young people. The report underscores the importance of bringing young entrepreneurs together and helping them make connections with government, service providers, and other businesses.
"But this alone is not enough," the executive director of the ILO Employment Sector, Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, said. "Countries need to create the enabling business environment that makes it possible for young people to establish or join small enterprises, and helps young persons to move from the informal to the formal economy."
The report, which describes a series of training and employment initiatives in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, and Uruguay, proposes two broad strategies to tackle youth unemployment: reducing the number of young people who leave the education system prematurely and promoting work opportunities for youth. The goal is to cut the number of young people who neither work nor study by at least half within...