December 01, 2016

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Youth and Cooperatives

Htun Tin Htun

Young people form a large proportion of the global population. They represent a valuable asset and an important potential labour force for countries in which they constitute the majority of the population. According to UNFPA, there are 1.2 billion adolescents in the world, of which, nine out of ten live in developing countries and 55 per cent reside in rural areas. In many regions, young farmers are the future of agriculture and rural development.
They are usually endowed with a sense of innovation, creativity and dynamism. Young women and men farmers are the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and can potentially overcome the food security challenge. And yet, recent riots all over the world demonstrate the dissatisfaction and frustration of younger generations who feel uncertain and desperate about their future. Youth are faced with unacceptable levels of unemployment.
In 2009 in North Africa and the Middle East, youth unemployment reached 24.7 per cent and 22.3 per cent respectively. In addition, an estimated 400 million youth worldwide – or about one third of all youth aged 15 to 24 – suffer from a deficit of decent work opportunities. The vast majority of jobs available to youth are lowly paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement, particularly in rural areas.
Around 25 per cent of all youth are employed, but live on less than the equivalent of US$ 2 per day (ILO, 2010). Compared to urban populations, rural populations suffer from higher levels of poverty, more limited education and training, poorer access to information and technology, as well as more restricted access to labour markets.
This situation is particularly acute for young farmers who face a myriad of constraints that are specific to their condition. These mainly include limited access to productive assets and markets as well as high transaction costs, in particular when young farmers take over inherited farms and settle in farming for the first time. In many developing countries, young farmers are ignored in policies and programmes.
This is partly a result of weak farmers’ organizations and cooperatives which often fail to represent their interests. As a result, rural youth, including young farmers, tend to have lower aspirations than their urban peers. There is often a disconnect between youth’s potential and their actual access to resources.
Opportunities can considerably and extensively be created and generated by Cooperatives. A better and bright future for young people can be initiated and developed. Let’s see what cooperatives can offer? Too many young people are experiencing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work, as well as persistently high working poverty.
The cooperative form of enterprise provides young people a means to create their own employment, find jobs with enterprises that often align themselves with their own values, and participate as member-owners of enterprises where their voice is heard.
Close to 75 million young people are out of work, and an increasing number of young people “neither in employment nor in education or training” especially in more developed countries.
This decent work deficit does not only put young people at risk, but entire societies are at risk of seeing increasingly social conflicts and political unrest due to the lack of job opportunities.
Not only do underutilized young people incur significant losses by not fulfilling their potential, but this underutilization of young people in the labour market can trigger a vicious circle of intergenerational poverty and social exclusion.
Young people face specific challenges in entering the work force. Their lack of professional experience may plunge them into the “experience trap”. They are unable to get a job, and so they are unable to gain professional experience that would allow them to get a job.
During economic downturns, young people can be the last to be hired (due to lack of experience) and the first to be dismissed (due to lack of tenure), on the basis of the ‘last in, first out’ principle.
Inadequate quality and relevance of education and training can strongly affect the length and quality for school-to-work transition of young people. The lack of alignment between the education system and the needs of employers generate a mismatch between supply and demand of labour.

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