Youth unemployment more than triples that of adults - IDESA

Report Nº: 82016/08/2019

Youth unemployment more than triples that of adults

International experience shows significant differences in the incidence of youth unemployment. The quality of the transition systems from school to work explained the phenomenon. This points out that Argentina could reduce its very high youth unemployment rate by redesigning its educational and labor institutions. The transition system from education to work comprises the set of […]

The transition system from education to work comprises the set of educational and labor institutions that flow young people from school to employment. Specifically, it contemplates the structuring of educational modalities and contents, the connection of schools with companies, and the regulations that govern labor practices and the first steps to employment.

In Europe, there are two different ways of organizing the transition systems from education to work. In countries of Germanic tradition –such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland– secondary education explicitly contemplates modalities that prepare young people for their early entry into the labor market. These modalities coexist with an academic branch whose orientation is more focused on the pursuit of university studies. An alternative scheme is that of the countries of Latin tradition –such as France, Belgium, or Spain– where the focus is almost exclusively on preparing young people to continue studies in the university.

One form to assess the effectiveness of transition systems from education to work is to compare youth unemployment rates with those of adults. Taking data from the OECD and INDEC in the case of Argentina, it is observed that:

  • In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the unemployment rate for adults is 4% while the youth unemployment rate is 8% making a ratio of 2.
  • In France, Belgium, and Spain, the unemployment rate for adults is 10% while the youth unemployment rate is 27% making a ratio of 2.7.
  • In Argentina, the unemployment rate for adults is 8% while the youth unemployment rate is 27%, making a ratio of 3.4.


These data show that, although young people suffer more unemployment than adults in all countries, the gaps are higher among Latin than in Germanic countries. It is strong evidence about the differences in outcomes that transition systems from education to work can produce depending on their different designs. In this comparison, Argentina falls as an extreme case of the adverse results obtained by the Latin countries, as a result of educational and labor institutions that are not sensitive to the young’s needs.

Secondary schools in Argentina, besides its low quality, are focused on university continuity. The contents and strategies to give employability are marginal even though the majority of youngster will decide not to go to university. The school connection with companies, either for training or for educational practices, is assumed as sinful or driven by corporate social responsibility (CSR) rather than as strategies for human resource training. The results are overwhelming: Only 40% of young people finish high school timely and an additional 10% finish late. This implies that half of the youngsters face the challenge of getting their first job with the burden of low education and no training for work.

Labor institutions, in turn, enhance discrimination against young people. Although there is an internship contract ruled, the administrative requirements are very restrictive and bureaucratic. This leads to the few schools and companies that dare to use them assign more effort to paperwork than to student training. But the gravest thing is that it is a high-risk contract. If some of the paperwork is deemed unfulfilled, the internship becomes an unregistered salaried job with severe penalties for the company. Not using internships to train young people in employment has consequences later in life: Only 18% of young people employed are registered as employees in a company; the rest work in informality.

Among the pending issues for the next government, one of vital importance is building a modern transition system from school to work. This requires a thorough review of the educational and labor institutions, removing the atavistic and wrong prejudice that schools are not to train people for companies and that internships are junk job-contracts.


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