Pacific youth unemployment raises concerns with ILO

High rates of youth unemployment in the Pacific region are a concern, according to a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report.

Unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels across the region. In 2023, nearly 800,000 people were unemployed, which is equivalent to an unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent.

ILO’s Pacific Islands Office employment specialist Christian Viegelahn is the chief author of the report.

He said despite strong job markets, concerns over youth unemployment remained.

“For example, what continues to be observed throughout all Pacific Island countries is that youth often have difficulty finding a job domestically, so youth unemployment is consistently higher across all countries for which we have data than the unemployment rates for adults.”

The report describes informal employment as any type of activity that is not covered by the law, including labour legislation or social protection.

“This does show you the concerns that we have if a job is not covered by labour legislation or workers don’t benefit from social protection, this is already a characteristic of poor job quality.

“Usually what we see is that workers in informal employment tend to have volatile incomes and also very often they are not unionised so their voices are not organised they don’t benefit from affiliations to trade unions which could help to strengthen their voice, in terms of bargaining for better working conditions.”

Viegelahn said across most countries women are more represented than men in the pool of informal workers.

“This also highlights some of the gender dimensions that our report is looking at, he said.

“Overall, the Pacific region is doing, in global comparison relatively well, in terms there are many women that are in employment, but some of those issues like the high informal employment rates, gender wage gaps, and also in many countries persistently higher unemployment rates among women compared to men, this does remain a concern in the Pacific.”

Low-quality jobs drive migration within the region, especially from smaller Pacific islands.

“It’s not enough to just have any kind of job, what is important is the quality of jobs. We do often see in this region [Pacific] in the smaller Pacific Islands countries, jobs of poor quality.

“For example, compared to Australia and New Zealand, we continue to see quite a substantial share of people who are in employment but don’t earn enough to escape poverty.”

The report underscores the importance of targeted employment and skill development policies.

Decent jobs are created for all segments of society when entrepreneurship is promoted, labour standards are enforced and social protection measures are in place, according to the report.

Viegelahn said this requires a high level of commitment and collaboration from everybody to improve the situation and to respond to some of these challenges.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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