José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Assistant Director-General for Policy (ILO) participated in one of the plenary tables at the Bilbao Youth Employment Forum; an opportunity to discuss youth unemployment; a complicated issue that involves “a human tragedy for many societies”. Precisely the magnitude of this problem and the need for governments to provide solutions and hope to the millions of young people who are unable to enter the labour market are the forces driving Pegasus, the Novia Salcedo Foundation initiative to declare the Youth Employment Decade. Salazar-Xirinachs described this campaign as “a visionary idea of the future with great merit, as it is a well-identified issue”. He clarified that this was not only a personal opinion, but that the International Labour Organization itself sees it as “a very positive” idea. He also mentioned that “the key to success lies with the governments and that the Foundation should approach them and work with them. If a coalition of governments wants to promote the idea, our role as a technical unit of the United Nations is to support it, and we shall do so gladly”.

While the necessary steps are being taken to attract support for Pegasus, Salazar-Xirinachs addressed other issues relating to the labour market. For example, in what region of the world would a young person have a greater chance of finding a job? “Statistics show that the highest probability of young people having a job is in a situation where there is combination of a high-growth economy and dynamic sectors and where there are higher levels of qualifications, including science, engineering and mathematics because, in terms of the labour market, there is a high demand for young people with that type of knowledge”. A question that, he said, young people and their families should ask themselves before choosing to go to university or to a Vocational Training centre. “They do not need to look at one country or another, rather inside their countries, when it comes to choosing studies. Apart from their preferences, they should take into account where the greatest opportunities exist of getting a job and leading a decent lifestyle”, he explained.

Industrial development

In the case of Spain, where growth is still very weak and is not resulting in a significant reduction in unemployment rates, the ILO representative stated that “recovery cannot and should not be based on another ‘bubble’ like the real estate bubble. Therefore, the great challenge is to discover what dynamic sectors can be promoted”. Taking advantage of his presence in “one of the most industrialized areas”, he recommended the Government focus on the development of this sector. “The future lies rather in returning to the industrial tradition, without forgetting agriculture and services, than in returning to construction activities” he said, because industry provides “advantages as a driving force and in learning, economies of scale and global competitiveness”.