09/11/2012 07:19 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST

Youth Unemployment: OECD Report Sees Bleak Future For The Young In Many Nations


Economic turmoil may have been pushing young people out of the workforce and sidelining them from their educational goals, but a report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development suggests Canada's youth are faring better than most.

The organization's "Education at a Glance" report found that 14 per cent of Canadians between 15 and 29 years of age were neither employed nor in education training, a measure commonly referred to as NEET.

Canada's numbers were below the international average of 16 per cent, a figure the organization said had been impacted by global economic turbulence.

The report was based on figures available from 2008 to 2010 — and the OECD said those trends are likely still rising due to more recent economic turmoil.

Canada's NEET youth were almost equally divided along gender lines, with boys only slightly more likely to find themselves outside either the education system or the labour force.

The NEET measurement from the OECD echoes findings from Statistics Canada released last May.

The country's national data collection agency found only 13 per cent of the 6.8 Canadian youth qualified as NEET, continuing a trend that has stayed more or less static for the past two decades.

The OECD had previously stated Canada had the second-lowest NEET rating among G7 countries. Tuesday's report examined a variety of educational metrics for 42 countries worldwide.

Canada's NEET rate was situated in the lower half of the report's spectrum, but was higher than the figures for Netherlands and Luxembourg, who boasted NEET rates of seven per cent.

Turkey had the highest NEET rate at 37 per cent, a number that reflected the fact that more than half the country's women were excluded from both education and work.

The OECD report repeatedly stressed the need for governments to step up investment in education if they hope to limit inequality and improve employment prospects for their citizens.

"Countries need an increasingly educated and skilled workforce to succeed in today’s knowledge economy," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said in a statement.

"Investing from an early age is crucial to lay the foundations of later success. High quality education and skills have to be among the number one priorities for governments, for economies and for societies. Supporting the poorest and ensuring equal access is another important pillar in an inclusive education policy."

The OECD report flagged the average NEET rate as a particularly telling measure of a country's future prospects.

The typical 15-year-old looking ahead 15 more years could expect seven years of education, 5.5 years of work, one year unemployed and 1.3 years out of the workforce entirely.

Although some in that last category were raising families, the OECD said, the high unemployment figures among young adults, especially in countries with low birthrates such as Spain and Italy, indicate a grave problem.

According to the report, the prospect of unemployment among the young is less dismal for those with more education. It found that higher education reduced joblessness by eight percentage points among 20-24 year-olds and 6.7 percentage points among 25-29 year-olds.

The report found one major reversal: Young women, for the first time, are more likely than young men to finish high school, are outpacing men in entering university-level education, and are catching up even in vocational schools.

The gap was most pronounced in Iceland and Portugal, where women's high school graduation rates were higher than men's by 20 percentage points or more.

Teenage girls in OECD countries were also more ambitious than boys when it came to their future careers.

They were significantly more likely to expect jobs in high-status, professional careers. But relatively few envisioned themselves in engineering or computing, both fields that remain dominated by men.

— with files from the Associated Press

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