ITC Shares

Let’s unleash the potential of youth in global trade

2 July 2018
Camilo Giraldo and Devika Rajeev, International Trade Centre

There are 1.3 billion youth in the world today and 1 billion of them live in the developing world. Worryingly, more than half of young people in developing countries are unemployed. With growing global economic unrest, providing jobs and training for youth is one of the major challenges of our times.

Not only is youth unemployment a roadblock for current and future economic growth and international trade, it also prevents societies from harnessing their future knowledge and skills. Let’s not forget that today’s youth is tomorrow’s workforce.

Several studies have indicated that, compared to other demographic groups, youth are often more creative than their parents’ generation and as such can hold the key to their societies economic success.

It is therefore crucial to empower youth with the needed financial and other tools – including the right technologies – as well as instilling in them entrepreneurial attitudes, skills and knowledge.

What is needed for many youth today are opportunities to participate in global trade. Businesses, governments and trade-support institutions must step up their efforts to ensure greater inclusion of youth in international markets and global value chains. A good starting point would be to strengthen and bolster support for youth-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Starting a business today can be expensive and entrepreneurs often face numerous obstacles.

These include power dynamics; social-networking constraints; discrimination based on age, gender or race; lack of access to assets and capital; low levels of education, skill and experience; and unfavourable administrative and regulatory frameworks.

Helping young entrepreneurs navigate the maze of challenges facing them should be a matter of public interest that needs to be taken more seriously. Creating a more favourable policy and business environment, setting up of efficient and resourceful trade and investment support institutions, and providing adequate skills and resources to work directly with young people are essential to their success.

Additionally, the ongoing backlash against globalization is not only a threat to the multilateral trading system and global economic growth, but also to the dreams and aspirations of young people across the world.

A greater share of trade and economic growth ought to be shared with the 99% rather than ending up with the 1%. For this to happen, better mechanisms need to be put in place across societies to reduce inequalities and bridge the gap to better benefit vulnerable groups, especially young people.

To empower and unleash the full potential of youth – in developing and developed countries – we have to make sure that the majority moves from being job seekers to becoming job creators. This will help bring down unemployment and allow countries to expand their economies.

Ensuring the economic well-being of young people by creating opportunities in trade and business is right thing to do, not only for the youths themselves but for societies as well. Making trade more inclusive for youth will raise social standards, boost economic growth and bring us closer to attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.