The global youth-to-adult unemployment ratio reached a historical high in 2013, with 13.1 per cent of 15-24 year-olds officially out of work. This compares to an adult employment rate of 4.6 per cent, meaning young people are roughly three times more likely to be unemployed.
The lack of jobs for young people is recognised as one of the Pacific’s most significant challenges, especially as the proportion of young people in this region is expected to increase in the coming years. This creates extra pressure on policymakers to generate employment opportunities as more young people enter the jobs market.
The issue was recognised under the 2011 Pacific Declaration on Investing in Youth Employment, which called for a regional strategy to address youth unemployment. It was also underlined at the 8th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in Papua New Guinea, the final communique of which noted the “the immense importance of linking national youth employment policies to national macroeconomic development plans”.
In 2013, the Commonwealth Secretariat initiated a capacity-building project for senior government officials responsible for devising national youth employment policies in Pacific Commonwealth countries.
The project was designed to improve technical policy expertise at youth ministries, in order to enhance youth focused employment policies and programmes.
Delivered in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the initiative aimed to assist decision makers develop evidence-based national economic and youth employment policies and action plans. Another aim was to help the policymakers further the draft region-wide Pacific Youth Employment Strategy, called for under the 2011 Pacific Declaration on Investing in Youth Employment.
Under the project, a five-day technical training workshop was held in Brisbane, Australia, between 27 and 31 January 2014, attended by senior officials from across the region. The course also focused on the need for decision makers to understand national contexts and work within regional strategies, with trainers looking at strategies and good practice used by policymakers globally.
Directors of Ministries of Youth and Labour from eight countries – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – have all benefitted from the project. Participants improved their understanding of youth enterprise development, youth employment services, the private sector and the green economy.
As well as deepening their technical expertise to implement youth employment programmes, the senior officials worked on their own national action plans. This paves the way for their national action plans to be integrated into national budget and planning cycles. The officials are also now better equipped to consult with national stakeholders, including young people.
In addition, the senior officials finalised a draft Pacific Youth Employment Strategy, for submission to leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, a group of 16 Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries in the Pacific. The strategy will assist member countries in developing national youth employment programmes, and will also support requests for donor support.