How will the youth of today fare in 2030?
The 2030 agenda presents its own set of challenges, especially in the Arab world
Earlier this month, the United Nations hosted the tenth Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) youth forum. The forum this year, headed by the U.N. secretary general special envoy on youth, Jordanian-born Ahmad Alhendawi, focussed on the youth’s contribution toward implementation of the 2030 agenda, which focuses on people, the planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.
Each aspect of the 2030 agenda presents its own set of challenges, especially in the Arab world. The one thing all of these themes have in common is the absence of key skills among the youth that can help reach the 2030 goals in a sustainable manner.
Young people bear the greatest burden in today’s world. They are the ones who will inherit the mistakes of their parents and politicians currently in charge. Young people will inherit the impact of wars, poverty, destruction, and mismanagement of resources, all of which have left the economy in shambles. The fact remains that young people have unfortunately not been equipped with the right skills to prepare for the future.
One of the greatest challenges facing the youth in their pursuit of the 2030 goals is the fact that a large number of them are unemployed. At 28.2 percent, Middle East has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. This has been largely because they have not received the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to find jobs in the first place.
Soft skills, tough results
Having seen the Middle Eastern education system first-hand, I can easily say that there is lack of focus on the importance of soft skills development among the youth. According to a research, conducted by Mckinsey in 2012, young people are not acquiring sufficient portfolio of general skills while they study.
The lack of soft skills, such as creativity, communication and work ethic, are making it difficult for employers to identify young people to fill the employment gap.
The public education system needs an internal revolution that changes the way society views educationYara al-Wazir
There are many reasons why these skills are lacking; from an education system that is focussed on hard-skills and fact churning to a society that does not foster or encourage these soft skills as much as it should, young people are losing out in every aspect. It is not up to employers to sit around and wait for the perfect candidate’s application to show up on the desk of human resources department.
The responsibility to build a generation with skills to lead the region toward a successful 2030 vision falls on the private sector as much as it does on the public sector. The public education system needs an internal revolution that changes the way society views education. In the current education system, major focus is on scoring grades and passing exams, and not so much on learning the lessons of life. This inevitably leads to failure.
A strong commitment toward extra-curricular activities needs to be introduced and they must be given credit when it comes to seeking higher education as well as employment.
The forum witnessed the launch of the U.N.’s Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth by the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. This is an affirmation that before young people are expected to inherit and solve the problems in 2030, they need an opportunity to experience everyday working and solve issues on a daily basis. The forum focussed on the need for inclusion and investment in entrepreneurship and fostering innovation.
All of these statements are important and crucial for a sustainable 2030. However, more importantly, the United Nations needs to realize that before young people can focus or plan for 2030, they need to be able to focus on their lives today. That means they need a living wage and a sustainable income.
Therefore, statements on decent jobs made by an organization that employed over 4,000 unpaid interns in 2012-2013 mean very little until meaningful change is brought about. For this to happen, public and private sector must cooperate with the United Nations, the education system, and the public in order to foster and develop the skills needed for 2030.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir