Young people to Davos leaders: more jobs, better education

Thousands of young people have a simple message to the leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum: “We need more jobs and better education.”

The urgent message emerged from an online poll of 10,000 young people from over 160 countries conducted by UNICEF to bring the voices of youth to this year’s alpine gathering of global movers and shakers.

For the first time in its history, the Davos Forum has named six Global Shapers below the age of 30 as co-chairs of the meeting – a decision which recognizes that young people are the demographic group most affected by the far-reaching disruptions affecting the world of work.

“There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 today – the world’s largest-ever group of young people. Every month, 10 million reach working age – and they’re finding that yesterday’s skills no longer match today’s job market,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said at a meeting today in Davos bringing together the Forum’s three communities: Global Shapers, Young Global Leaders and Schwab Social Entrepreneurs.

“They want – and need – future skills for future work: digital skills, modern agriculture, green technology, and business and entrepreneurial skills. As a global community, business as usual isn’t good enough. The private sector has a pivotal role in helping close the skills gap, and giving young people the ladders of opportunity they need to reach their potential.”

The views expressed in the poll speak to a crisis in education and skills. There are 71 million unemployed youth. Over 150 million young people are working, but living on less than $3 a day. Globally, six out of 10 children and adolescents do not achieve minimum proficiency in reading and math, and 200 million adolescents are out of school. Those most affected are those who need education and skills the most – girls and young women, children and adolescents living in conflict zones, and those with disabilities.

From a list of five priorities, the poll found that:

  • The largest number of respondents – 35 per cent – identified more job opportunities as their top priority.
  • The second most important ask, identified by 26 per cent of respondents, was for better education.
  • Sixteen per cent said protecting the planet and natural resources was most important, 15 per cent wanted support for agriculture and entrepreneurship, while 8 per cent called for improved access to technology.
  • Just under half, 47 per cent, said that globalization was bringing people closer together while 36 per cent said they thought it was widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
  • Over three out of five, or 63 per cent, felt that business leaders could do more to help young people succeed in today’s globalized world.

UNICEF and Generation Unlimited – a global partnership to match the best initiatives for young people with the ideas, resources, vision and reach of public, private and civil society partners – will be working closely with the Forum and the Global Shapers community to help address the critical challenges young people face. The goal of Generation Unlimited is to get every young person in school, learning, training, or in age-appropriate employment by 2030.

“We are calling for cutting-edge solutions and new ideas,” Fore said. “If we act wisely and urgently, we can create a skilled cohort of young people better prepared to create sustainable economies and peaceful and prosperous societies.”