12 August, 2014 - International Youth Day: Jobs crisis threatens mental health of millions

Tuesday, August 12 is International Youth Day. Plan International CEO Ian Wishart is available for grabs, interviews, etc. To arrange, please call Adam Cathro on 0488 202 945.

The mental health of tens of millions of young people across the world is being threatened by a global employment crisis that is putting an entire generation at risk, says NGO Plan International Australia on International Youth Day.

More than 70 million young people, aged between 15 and 24, are currently unemployed, according to the International Labour Organisation. Another 200 million youth are working for less than $US2 a day.

With around 90 per cent of youth living in the developing world, it is here the crisis is at its most dangerous.

“We know from our own experience that unemployment and underemployment can have an enormous psychological and emotional impact on youth, at a time when they naturally expect to transition from school to the adult world of employment,” says Plan International CEO Ian Wishart.

“But instead of making that crucial transition, millions of young people are instead finding themselves out of work and that can so often have a devastating effect on their mental and emotional health,” Wishart says.

“The theme of this year’s United Nations International Youth Day is ‘mental health matters’, so it’s the right time to draw attention to one of the greatest threats to the mental health of young people – and that’s unemployment,” he adds.

“And while this crisis is at its most acute in parts of the world where most of our youth live – and that’s in developing countries – young people in developed countries like Australia are not immune from the devastating impacts of unemployment. After all, being young and unemployed hurts no matter where you live.”

“Research has shown us that unemployment and underemployment can have an enormous bearing on the mental health of young people. Put simply, youth who find work when they leave school are less likely to suffer mental problems than those who cannot find jobs.”

“We also see a vicious cycle, in which youth who suffer from problems with their mental health are then less likely to find work. They are less likely to engage with the world around them and they are less likely to learn the critical skills they need to get out of unemployment,” Wishart says.

“The way to address these mental health risks is to empower youth to help them find the work that will allow them to participate in the economic life of the countries in which they live,” he says.

“It is not always the case that work does not exist. In many cases, the problem is that young people leave school without the skills they need to find the work that is available. So they need support and training to gain technical/vocational skills.

“They also need assistance to find employment opportunities. And young people – and employers – need to know their rights and responsibilities, to ensure that youth are not exploited on the job.”

“A great example is some of the work Plan does in our own region, in Timor-Leste. In partnership with the Australian government, we provide crucial and valuable vocational training courses to help young people gain the skills they need to find work in a country in which labour force participation is just 22 per cent.”

“Young people like Lenia, who is 20 years old, could not find work without essential skills. After six months of hospitality training (supported by Plan), Lenia now works in a restaurant in Dili, and is earning enough to provide for herself and her family, and to save to go to university.”

“Hers is not just an inspiring story, it’s a great example of how the right training can give young people the skills they need to work – and of course that, in turn, contributes to the economies of the countries in the developing world who need that contribution the most.”

Editors’ notes:
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious or political affiliations.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945