While the issue of youth unemployment features highly on national and international policy agendas, young people are not involved enough in the decision-making process. What must be done to address this and increase their overall economic opportunity?

Looking long term, competitiveness must be thought of in terms of what young people want and need. Obviously, one of the major difficulties in incorporating these youth issues is the fact that youth themselves are an extremely heterogeneous group. This was highlighted in the Global Youth Wellbeing Index. The index also shows that across countries, youth are faring weakest in economic opportunity.

One approach is to encourage youth entrepreneurship, which would give young people the skills and knowledge to create jobs for themselves and their peers and create a favorable ecosystem for young entrepreneurs. This is especially relevant as many entrepreneurial skills can be effectively used as an employee within an existing company or organization. A good example of this is a programme run by the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises (JADE), which encourages and facilitates entrepreneurship education and experiential learning inside organizations. The programme is even more relevant for young people as it is run by youth themselves

In a similar vein, creating vocational and technical programmes and forging stronger relations between future employers and future employees are seen as remedies to ease the school-to-work transition. This has been successful in Germany where apprenticeships and vocational training have long been the norm. At 8.2%, Germany has second lowest youth unemployment in the European Union.

To truly include young people in a modern, competitive economy at both national and international level, it will be necessary to take their opinions and suggestions into account when creating policies aimed at addressing youth unemployment. What is also needed is a competitiveness index made by youth themselves. This way, not only can youth bring forward their respective and diverse needs and challenges, but also their proposed solutions to these issues.

If youth are included in decision-making processes from the get-go, they are more likely to accept the policies as they understand the process and why the policies are implemented. Similarly, adults are more likely to break their stereotypical “troublesome” view of youth and see them as contributors to solving social problems. Change will come from youth themselves, and such an index could be instrumental in making this a reality.

Author: Jeroo Billimoria is a social entrepreneur.

Image: Applicants fill out forms during a job fair at the Southeast LA-Crenshaw WorkSource Center in Los Angeles November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni