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Unequal opportunities

by Katja Dombrowski


Student rally in Chile in 2014.

Student rally in Chile in 2014.

The world’s youth is its hope. It stands for change, for innovation, in some cases even for democratic revolution. Young people embody the future and the continuation of humankind – something, we shouldn’t take for granted. Young people need good educations and decent jobs. If societies fail to give their youth opportunities, there will neither be sustainable economic growth nor fairness, equality and political stability.

The young generation’s sheer size matters too. Those aged between 15 and 24, as the UN defines youth, account for more than 18 % of the world’s population. It makes sense to address the challenges they face, such as joblessness and marginalisation. Youth unemployment is rising, and living conditions in many parts of this crisis-ridden world are getting worse, not better. The world labour organisation ILO estimates that youth make up more than 35 % of the unemployed worldwide, and more than one-third of youth in emerging markets and developing countries live in poverty despite having a job.

This is a dangerous trend. Frustrated youth are actually more of a risk than a chance. If they cannot build a life, start a family and fulfil at least some of their own and others’ expectations, they become destructive, prone to extremist movements – or leave. Millions of young people seek their fortunes abroad and are missed at home.
Education is the key to everything. Regarding job opportunities and labour-market demand, high-quality vocational training is at least as important as university education. However, in many countries there is no formal education for crafts such as carpenter or hairdresser that would impart both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. And in the lack of up-to-date technology and access to the global market it is difficult to meet world standards.

Gender inequality is another huge issue. On average, girls still get less or lower-quality education than boys, women’s labour force participation is still lower than men’s, and men still occupy more top jobs than women. Most women – even in very traditional societies – want to have a career and some degree of independence. Young aspiring women deserve to be encouraged.

Social stratification hurts too. In Germany, better-off children more often go to university than those with poor or poorly educated parents. Money is not the reason, universities are free. In many other countries, tuition fees are huge barriers for masses of people though. Often, even schools are divided into two classes: public, free and low quality versus private, costly and high quality. Injustices occur in developing and industrialised countries alike. They must be abolished. Every girl and boy deserves the same opportunities.

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