In nearly every country in the world, youth unemployment is much higher than general unemployment.
Source: Visual Capitalist
At the top of the list, Spain has the highest youth unemployment in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of countries, with nearly one in three young adults unable to find a job. As announced in June, China’s youth unemployment rate has climbed to 21.3%, a meteoric rise since May 2018, when it was below 10%. The Chinese economy is in the midst of a slowdown and its steadily climbing youth unemployment prompted the government to suspend age-specific unemployment data for the near future.
On the other side of the spectrum, in Japan, only 4.2% of young adults are without a job. A key reason for this is Japan’s shrinking and ageing population that’s made for a tight labour market.
A mismatch between educational qualifications and the labour market has been cited as a significant reason for Spain’s lack of employed adults between the ages of 15–24. Meanwhile, the country’s reliance on temporary contracts and dependence on seasonal sectors—like tourism—to generate jobs are some of the reasons for its persistently high reported unemployment across demographic groups.
Unfortunately, the pandemic exacerbated matters. During a crucial stretch of their early careers, young adults were locked out of entry-level jobs, destroying their ability to pick up work experience and potentially impacting their long-term earnings.
Now, nearly three years after COVID-19 first hit, young adults from some countries, like China, are struggling to find jobs.
Aside from being an indicator of general opportunities within a country, youth unemployment is a key metric because it can be a bellwether for future economic prospects. High rates of youth unemployment correlate to “brain drain” within a country, as young adults move elsewhere to find better jobs. Large increases in unemployed youth have historically led to the potential of civil unrest, which makes it a politically charged metric to monitor.
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