With all of the youth-inspired unrest in the United Kingdom over the past few days, I thought that it would be interesting to look at the social issues facing young people in the U.K., particularly their employment prospects and compare their issues to those facing the youth of other EU and extra-EU nations.
In the second quarter of 2011, youth unemployment in the United Kingdom fell to 19.7 percent with 917,000 unemployed 16 to 24 year olds. This is a drop of 0.7 percentage points from the previous quarter when there were 959,000 unemployed youth, the highest since record-keeping began in 1992. The statistics also showed that there were 75,000 youth that had not held a job for two years, an increase of 43 percent from a year earlier. As we saw in the case of Egypt, perhaps at least some of the actions of young Brits over the past few days is related to a sense of hopelessness rather than just being completely attributable to hooliganism.
Here is a look at some interesting youth employment statistics compared to national unemployment statistics for several countries around the world:
United Kingdom 16 to 24 years of age: 19.7 percent compared to 7.7 percent nationally.
France 15 to 24 years of age: 22.8 percent compared to 9.7 percent nationally.
Greece 15 to 24 year olds: 43.1 percent compared to 15.8 percent nationally.
Canada 15 to 24 year olds: 14.1 percent compared to 7.2 percent nationally.
United States 16 to 19 year olds: 25.0 percent compared to 9.1 percent nationally.
Here is a graph comparing the total unemployment rate for the EU-27, the EU, Japan and the United States:
Here is a graph showing the rise in youth unemployment across the Eurozone over the past decade:
Here is a chart showing the actual statistics for the year 2009 showing how much higher unemployment for those EU citizens under the age of 25 is when compared to unemployment for those between the ages of 25 and 74 years:
The youth unemployment rate in the EU-27 has been two to three times the rate for the total population over the last 10 years. That cannot help but lead to trouble over the long term as a sense of hopelessness overtakes the optimism of one's early teen years.
Perhaps, in some way, this explains (but does not excuse) the anger on the streets of the United Kingdom just as it did in Egypt earlier this spring. The social contrast between those who are elected to run the governments of Europe and North America and European and North American young adults is profound. In recent history, the divide between our society's "ruling class" and the have nots has rarely been wider and deeper. Anger towards the system is sometimes directed toward unexpected targets and it is that anger that appears to be contagious.
In light of the likely implementation of widespread government austerity programs as a "Hail Mary" approach to balancing decades of fiscal mismanagement, it will be interesting to see where mob anger strikes next.