Global Policy Responses to Crises of Youth Unemployment: Business As Usual or Radical Change?

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Ross FERGUSSON, The Open University, United Kingdom
As the consequences of the 2007/8 global financial crisis (GFC) continue to spread through economic, welfare and labour systems in the global north and south alike, it is clear that young people are disproportionately (and in many contexts severely) adversely affected. Interest amongst IGOs during the early years of the unfolding crisis resulted in some measure of convergence in their emergent policy positions that reflected emphasis on pro-welfare policies in many nation-states, and fuelled interventions to increase demand for young people’s labour (Fergusson and Yeates, 2014). Ten years after the GFC, with the normalisation of mass youth unemployment, the ephemeral neo-Keynesian policy revival seems to be receding rapidly. Now, the balance-sheet of interventions amongst IGOs leans towards supply-side measures and work-based conditionalisation of welfare entitlements. Two global partnership initiatives reflect these trends - the ‘Youth Employment Network’ and ‘Solutions for Youth Employment’. This paper argues that their approaches largely promise to consolidate the characteristically-neoliberal trend. Both partnerships have a strong focus on improving the capabilities of young entrants to the labour market. Their priorities also suggest that advocacy of comprehensive, universalist social protection systems providing adequate unemployment benefits is weakening substantially. And yet the two key IGO players in both partnerships have also continued to adapt their own core positions in ways that would have been especially surprising before the GFC. The paper traces the mixed and sometimes apparently contradictory priorities of these two IGOs and the partnerships which they cohabit with other IGO, global-corporate and transnational Third Sector entities. It qualifies claims that they are dominated by neoliberal positions on labour market and social protection policies. It briefly discusses how these developments may bear upon the SDG ensuring that all young people will have full and productive employment in decent jobs by 2030.