#YTGlobal Faces: Chief Macroeconomist At The ILO Ekkehard Ernst

#YTGlobal is about to start and this is the last pre-event interview that we would like to share with you. Ekkehard Ernst is a prominent expert in the field of labour market. Besides giving a speech during "Challenging Youth Unemployment" plenary session, Mr Ernst is also an expert for employment projects presentations. For those of you who can’t join us in Barcelona, you can watch Mr Ernst's speech during our live stream tomorrow from 9:30 to 11:00 (CET).

Mr Ernst, you are best known for your publications in the field of labour market reforms and the impact of financial markets on jobs and growth. So it is logical to ask you, looking back at the period when the problem of youth unemployment began, if the current situation should reasonably called a crisis and what are the roots of it?

The current situation for young people can certainly be described as a crisis with high often very persistent joblessness rates among youth. The dramatic rise in youth unemployment that was triggered by the global financial crisis in 2009 came at a time of profound shifts in global labour markets. Technological change leads to an erosion of those jobs that typically provided income for most middle-class employees, jobs to which most young people would aspire, too. At the same time, few, highly qualified young people continue to thrive in the labour market, but only after long and costly university studies that not all young people can and want to afford. The situation has undermined confidence, especially in Southern European countries, among young people, often forcing them to move back to live with their parents and loose the little autonomy that the labour market had offered them previously.

What are the general numbers?

Just looking at the sheer numbers gives you a sense of how deep the crisis is. Currently, there are more than 5 million young people unemployed in the European Union, out of which almost 1 million young jobseekers live in Spain alone. On average, more than 22 per cent of the youth labour force is without a job, but differences across countries are enormous with more than half Spanish and Greek young workers on the street but less than 1 out of 10 young Germans and Austrians.

Looking ahead, what is your perspective on the labour market for young professionals in the next 5 to 10 years? What could be the risks, and what are the opportunities? 

The years ahead will not be easy for young professionals. The global economic crisis has led to significant job cuts across the board. Today, several waves of young school leavers are competing for the same jobs and often the younger ones have the more up-to-date school education that employers prefer, leaving older candidates at the side-line. Both policy makers and private sector actors need to ensure that young people are being integrated into the labour market as swiftly as possible to prevent a significant build-up of long-term, hard-to-employ young jobseekers.

At the same time, the continuous increase in demand for skilled labour over the coming years offers a huge potential for those young people that have the right skills. Those school-leavers that manage to extend their education and get a good professional or academic training are certainly well placed to take advantage of this new environment and are likely to benefit from stable and growing career perspectives. Notably in medical services but also in other person-to-person services is there a huge demand for those with the right skills and qualification! 

The last couple of questions are about the Youth Time Global Forum. What would be the keynotes of your speech?

In face of the challenges that young people face on the labour market, I would like to highlight three main points in my keynote speech and which, I believe, cane lead to private sector initiatives to help promote stable employment for young people:

- First a key barrier for employment for young people is the lack of previous experience. Here, the private sector can help offering stepping stones into the labour market already at a young age. Indeed, those countries fare particularly well in terms of youth employment where young people have the opportunity early on – through part-time jobs, internships and visits – to experience first-hand what it means to be “in the labour market”.

- Second, private actors need to be more involved in the school curricula. Often, knowledge in school has been set up several years ago without continuous updating of the teaching content. However, in our fast growing world, technologies and workplace organisation are in constant flux and young students need to be prepared for that. 

- Finally, private actors can also strengthen the love for entrepreneurship. The Youth Time Global Forum is an excellent example of how young people can be encouraged to put forward their own ideas to promote solutions to improve the labour market integration of their peers.

What do you expect from the Youth Time Global Forum? What are your personal goals? 

The Youth Time Global Forum is a superb initiative to bring together young people with established actors on the labour market. I could already witness how much effort and energy it has triggered and hope that this will transpire during the event as well. The Youth Time Global Forum is a unique platform for bringing different actors from various countries together to exchange information and experience. I will definitely learn a lot from talking to different participants and plan to bring many good ideas back to my work to promote them among policy makers. I wish all the best and lots of success to the Forum and congratulate in particular Julia Kinash, the driving force behind the Youth Time Global Forum, for organising this astounding event.

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