The Geopolitics Of Youth Unemployment


Although many years have passed since the Great Recession,  the global economy is still faced with the traditional laws of recurring economics. One of the economic factors that continues to remain negative even before 2009 is global youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is one of the most significant indicators of a successful and prosperous economy and country, since when looking back at history,  high youth unemployment has always been a reason for the start of a revolution. A perfect example is the Arab Spring under Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

However, it is not only Arab Spring countries that are suffering from youth unemployment. Practically every measure out there shows that youth unemployment is an existing and vast problem throughout the globe, and merely continues to worsen. The UN’s International Labor Office released figures that the global youth unemployment rate is at 12.6% worldwide, which comes out to almost 75 million unemployed youth throughout the world.  In their studies, 15-24 is considered youth.

Although the issue is indeed worldwide, some regions have it worse off than others.  North Africa and The Middle East hold the largest rate of youth unemployment at 27.9 percent and 26.5 percent. In comparison, East Asia has a relatively low rate of 9 percent.  Throughout all regions, the youth unemployment rate is higher than the adult unemployment rate. Even with the example of East Asia with a lower rate than most regions, youths are as high as three times more likely to be unemployed in comparison to adults.

Some organizations, such as the BBC argue that the overall rate is not accurate because students are classified as economically inactive, especially so since many youngster are returning to school with the hopes of increasing their chances of obtaining employment. There is of course truth to this argument, however there is also research that shows that these students will continue to be unemployed even following their graduation. Furthermore, there are many inevitable associated issues that do not even appear in official statistics. For one, that their is more and more highly skilled competition over unskilled work, workers who are unemployed, as well as young people who have given up on even trying to find employment.  For the next ten years, there will be 100 million young people entering the global workforce. In 2011 alone, six million  university graduates began searching for a job just in China.  It is not realistic to think that the global economy is capable to creating enough jobs in order to absorb all the new youth in the working force.

Youth access to opportunity is limited by three main factors. For one, fewer jobs are being created. With technological advancements, the role of human labor is being reduced. Man is no longer needed as much in manufacturing processes. Once upon a time, there were more employment possibilities within agriculture, however this is decreasing as seen in population to employment ratios.


Another limiting factor is the budgets of federal governments.  The governments are limited in their abilities to invest in stimulating job creation. A World Bank report explains that federal stimulus spending is absolutely needed in order for 600 million jobs to be created for the young people soon to be entering the global workforce.   However, based on the budgetary challenges governments face, as well as all the fiscal reckoning that exists throughout the United States, this is not such a simple thing to introduce.

The third limiting factor is the conflict of endless economic growth powered by limited resources. The group of young people who are soon to enter the global job market throughout the next decade might experience the intense human population pressures on the the insufficient natural resources the world has to offer.  The planet’s natural resources have already been taken to their limit, although this is exactly what is needed in order for global growth, which is directly followed by job creation.  It makes sense why a lack of water and increasing food prices will cause challenges on economic growth.

Based on these three factors, unfortunately as seem as though youth unemployment will not be seeing any improvements. Youth unemployment has always been tied with revolt and political instability.  The Arab Spring is merely the latest example of revolutions, however there are many historic examples, such as French Revolution, the fall of the Weimar Republic, Japan’s invasion of China, as well as the Marxist insurrections throughout Latin America in the 1970’s.  Many argue that  these events are due to the overwhelming amount of underprivileged and impoverished youth.


The instability of youth unemployment is pretty simple. Job opportunities at young ages teach the new generation how to operate in the system.  However for young people who suffer from unemployment, they are more vulnerable to competing political or religious worldview that go against the system that is not helping them. Research shows that mere expectation of job outcome also is a big factor in this equation. Taking more educated youth who do not find employment, the chances are higher that they will express more concern and anger towards this.

The geopolitical consequences of youth unemployment are of course not exactly the same throughout the globe. It varies between the political institutions at hand, and whether they are a developed or developing countries.  For example, in the Arab Spring countries, there was not a significant amount of legitimacy within their political framework.  Due to this lack of legitimacy,  the movement was easily formed and popular due to economic dissatisfaction, leading to a political revolution.  Similar events can of course occur in developing countries with high youth unemployment as well, however their anger could also be challenged through terrorism, crime or other conflicts.

Europe has a record number of youth unemployment. Spain itself has an unemployment rate of over 46 percent. Croatia, Estonia, Ireland and Slovakia also are faced with incredibly high youth unemployment rates. However, The biggest threat in the developed world is more ideological, such as globalization and xenophobia.  In Europe, political forces protest and aim to take down the European Union.

Youth unemployment does not seem to have a solution in the near future, and only continues to become more severe. The potential costs also continue to escalate, such as increased risk of revolutions, state-collapses, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia and so on.  As seen in the Arab Spring, it is nearly impossible to predict exactly when such cases will come about, however it is seen that helpless unemployed youth can be quite powerful when coming together.