Microsoft, IYF seek to close ‘opportunity divide’
Microsoft has announced a commissioned report from the International Youth Foundation, Opportunity for Action, which documents the growing economic and social challenges facing youth around the world and the urgent need to provide the education, skills and employment opportunities required for them to succeed in today's rapidly changing global economy.
The report underlines the emergence of an opportunity divide among young people worldwide.
On a global basis, the unemployment rate for youth is currently 12.7%, or more than double the 6% global average for unemployment as a whole. While some youth are prospering, many others who lack access to education, skills and opportunities face growing challenges. As the global youth population of 1.2 billion — the largest in history — grows over time, the gap risks widening even further between those with opportunity and those without.
The Opportunity for Action report documents the nearly 75 million young people, globally, who are unemployed and the varying causes for rising youth unemployment in different parts of the world. As the report shows, currently only 44% of youth worldwide pursue education as far as the equivalent of the high school level in the United States, and even fewer complete secondary education. This is especially concerning given the increase in jobs globally requiring higher levels of skill and education. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that by 2018, 62% of the workforce will require some college education, yet today 16% of American youth ages 18-24 fail even to complete high school.
There are varying causes for the opportunity divide around the world. Latin American youth have greater access to education than ever before, but there are low education completion rates across the region. In contrast, there are a growing number of youth in the Middle East and Africa with university degrees who find there are no jobs to match their advanced skills.
And in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 23% of children are not even enrolled in primary school, young people are grossly underemployed in low-skill, low-quality jobs and 72% earn less than USD2 per day simply to survive.
In response to the report findings, Brad Smith, Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel, said, "While the reasons for the opportunity divide vary country by country, the global trend is unfortunately the same everywhere. As the International Youth Foundation reports, unemployment has been on the rise for young people worldwide. More than ever, the public and private sectors need to work together to provide youth with access to education, skills, and better job opportunities. We must move from 'opportunity divided' to 'opportunity provided' for all."
For the past decade, Microsoft programs and partnerships have helped millions of young people worldwide create a better future for themselves through investments in education, skills training and programs that provide access to job opportunities. The International Youth Foundation report indicates that there is more work to be done.
"History has shown us that when young people thrive, society prospers. The data in this report show us that far too many young people today are struggling, and the reasons why. We must act now so that the world's youth have the opportunities they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce. Our collective future depends upon it," said William Reese, president and CEO, International Youth Foundation.
Microsoft is working with governments, nonprofits, industry colleagues, educators and youth themselves to close the opportunity divide. A first step is shining a light on the problem through the IYF report and learning more directly from young people — through a series of upcoming conferences and events in different regions of the world — about the best ways to help. The company is incorporating the insights gained from these discussions into its work to develop new plans to improve youth access to education, skills training, and communities where they can create and seize real-world opportunities.
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