On Occasion of the International Youth Day, 12 August 2014

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) representing 176 million workers within 161 countries and territories celebrates International Youth Day 2014 by focusing on “Decent Wages for Young Workers”.

Young people represent a significant percentage of the world’s population. They remain a major resource for development of society and represent not only the future but the partners of today. Yet they are largely affected by unemployment, underemployment and income insecurity.

The economic and developmental gap between the under-developed, developing and the developed countries is more disturbing each day as young workers continue to face unprecedented decline in wage and living standards. Wages have been shrinking dramatically for the youngest segment of the labour force in recent years. Earnings are pitiful regardless of educational attainment, long hours of work and harsh working conditions. In some cases, young workers do not receive wages regularly. The situation is worse for the youth without any educational qualification, training or skill.

The inability of the formal private sector to generate jobs in their required quantities has also pushed many youth into the informal economy. In the absence of appropriate social protection mechanisms, informal activities are becoming the survival strategy for many young people, especially in developing countries. A significant number of these workers are trapped in poverty as they do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Linked to the high prevalence of poverty is the lack of access to productive resources, especially capital.

These hamper opportunities for young people to participate in the economy and live above poverty lines. The general cost of living including rent and utilities are rising faster than wages. Wages are either declining or stagnated. Young workers are faced with a future of poverty, hunger and despair. They are questioning if there was hope for the future. The present situation appeared so bleak and this could be dangerous for both individuals and society at large.

Young workers are also bearing the brunt of the hardships of casualization. Relatively secure and well paid jobs are largely replaced with job insecurity. Not only do low wages have an immediate impact on people’s financial situation, it also put people under extreme stress. The next generation might have a lower standard of living than ours if we chose to do nothing.

In order to achieve full potential and contribute to social and economic development, young people need access to decent work and well paid jobs.

We call on government, employers and all stakeholders to acknowledge the objectives of the International Youth Day and work towards ensuring decent work.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reiterates its strong commitment to encourage young workers to organize. Organizing builds young workers power to shape both the process and the outcome. This is our day, the world needs us. Let raise our voices and push the debate to enrich global dialogue on decent work.

In solidarity
Nana Koomah Brown- Orleans
ITUC Youth Committee Chairperson