G20, Y20 and Youth Unemployment

Posted on 16. December 2014

by Noora Löfström

Noora Lovstrom NEWWith 2014 almost over, the presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) was passed to Turkey from Australia. The G20 met in mid-November in Brisbane, Australia and the outcome of the meetings and the communique was not as widely covered by the media as the premature departure of the Russian president. All eyes were on Putin; the G8 summit that was meant to be held in Sochi in June was transformed into a G7 meeting in Brussels without Russia, to protest against the Russian annexation of Crimea.

The Canadian, Australian and EU leaders were stern towards Putin in their statements before the G20 and did not hide their discontent with Russian actions in Ukraine, or MH17 for that matter. However, much more was discussed than the ‘hot’ topics of Russia, Ukraine, the imposed sanctions and the actions against Ebola. One of the less covered points on the agenda touches 74.5 million young people around the world who do not have a job (report Europe’s Lost Generation by Future Lab Europe, 2012).

The G20 brings together the world’s most powerful economies and is meant to foster economic cooperation and strengthen the global economy. As the name reveals, the G20 consist of 19 countries as well as the European Union – all of which have seen rising youth unemployment numbers. The G20 claim they had a vital impact in coping with the global financial crisis through coordinated efforts; they should be able to ameliorate the situation of young people outside the labour market. Carrying out economic reforms that are needed in the G20 member countries is one of their aims. Reforms are needed to tackle youth unemployment.

There is more to the G20 than the actual leaders’ summit. The work stretches far beyond the few days of meetings in mid-November.  The host country starts preparations more than a year before the meeting. There are also multiple official engagement groups that prepare their positions for the G20 leaders to review and consider. The G20 aims to strengthen the engagement with these groups; there’s the B20 for businesses, the C20 for civil society, L20 for organised labour, T20 for academia and last but not least, the Y20 for youth.

The European Union is also represented at the engagement group level. I sent in my application to Young European Leadership and was selected to be part of the EU delegation to the Y20, which held its meeting in Sydney in mid-July. The three focus areas of the Y20 Summit were Global Citizenship, Sustainable Development and Growth and Jobs.

Prior to the meeting, the delegations were encouraged to conduct youth consultations in their respective countries and share the outcomes with the other delegates. Thanks to online platforms such as Podio, Yammer and Facebook, the debates, the voting and the interaction amongst delegates started months before we met in Australia. An online vote was organised to identify the most pressing issues that we wanted to present in our priority recommendations to the G20 Sherpas and Finance Deputies in June 2014.

In the written conclusions of the Y20 – including policy recommendations and the delegates’ declaration –  we called for more support for youth entrepreneurship and increased measures to tackle youth unemployment as well as improving labour mobility, net neutrality and e-learning. In addition to the working groups and policy debates, there were occasions for cultural exchange amongst the 120 delegates, watching and taking part in aboriginal dancing and petting the furry fauna that make Australia unique.

Meeting all the enthusiastic, forward thinking and ambitious delegates chosen to take part in the summit from all over the world was awe-inspiring. As one of the delegates put it, if the Y20 participants will be the next world leaders, the future looks quite promising.

The months after the Y20 Summit were devoted to lobbying for our recommendations to the policy makers and spreading the declaration we had compiled in Sydney. A positive surprise was that in the communique produced in Brisbane by the G20, one paragraph (number 10) recognized youth unemployment and the need to address it:

“We are strongly committed to reducing youth unemployment, which is unacceptably high, by acting to ensure young people are in education, training or employment. Our Employment Plans include investments in apprenticeships, education and training, and incentives for hiring young people and encouraging entrepreneurship.”

Now it is time to make sure that the world leaders keep their promises and that the G20 are held accountable for reducing youth unemployment and putting the Employment Plans in place. The next G20 and Y20 Summits hosted by Turkey will focus on “inclusivity, implementation and reforms” and aim to bridge the gap between developed economies and undeveloped countries to fight global inequality. Employment is also a topic on the agenda. Hopefully the necessary measures will be taken by then and youth employment figures will be on the rise.