The Seventh Meeting of the Youth Sectoral Committee of the Union of Latin American Capitals, held from April 22 to 24 in Cadiz, voiced its support for the “international campaign promoted by the Government of Spain and Spanish civil society to convince the United Nations to declare a Youth Employment Decade from 2016 to 2025”. This was the first of the agreements reached over the space of three days in which the heads of youth departments from sixteen Latin American cities discussed the main issues affecting young people and the role that the Public Administrations should play. The president of the Committee, the Salvadoran, Diego Echegoyen Rivera, called for state laws that provide young people with the “legal, institutional and social support to develop fully. Without young people who are economically independent, there is no future for society”, he stated.
– The UCCI Youth Committee has voiced its support for the Pegasus initiative to declare a youth employment decade. What is it that you liked most in the proposal put forward by Novia Salcedo?
I believe that young people are advancing a lot; this is historically the best educated generation and the one with more information; however, at a global level, access to jobs is one of the main problems we have to deal with. There are also challenges in education, of course, but we have never had a generation with greater access to training and information. The global crisis, from which we are only starting to recover, has made it clear that we have to improve access to employment and entrepreneurship for young people. They are an important part of global society and also for the economy, of course.
As president of the Seventh Youth Sectoral Committee of the Union of Latin American Capitals, I submitted a proposal to include a section by which the people responsible for youth issues in large cities would support this noble initiative undertaken by the Novia Salcedo Foundation. The best part of this proposal lies in its contribution to solving a structural and highly sensitive issue: 75 million young people cannot find jobs.
A few days ago I mentioned to Rubén Urosa, director of the Youth Institute, that Spain became a problem in southern Europe during the crisis but that, today, it is an example regarding the generation of employment for young people. In general, the figures are encouraging. This is why the proposal for a decade that acknowledges the dramatic situation of young people and the need for governments to help put forward by the Spanish Government and Spanish Civil Society, spearheaded by the Novia Salcedo Foundation, is so legitimate.
– How do you plan to collaborate with this initiative?
I think that the first step would be to propose that the United Nations’ General Assembly approve the Youth Employment Decade name; but once this happens we will have to work on a plan of action that will involve young people at a local level – where citizens are in direct contact with public policies – and at a global level, where wider-ranging initiatives, such as in this case, are possible.
Cities, and in particular large Latin American cities, will work together on this Action Plan, in addition to encouraging national governments to deal with youth employment as an urgent need.
During the Seventh Youth Committee, many youth authorities from the 22 Latin American countries explained what they were already doing in their cities, such as organising employment fairs, training opportunities and access to ICTs so that young people could obtain information and actively participate in solving their problems. We are already providing support, but we shall be attentive to continue supporting the Pegasus initiative until young people can enjoy more and better jobs.
– How do you think the Decade will help solve a problem that is affecting so many millions of young people around the world?
Youth employment is like early assistance for children, it reduces many negative issues in the future. The Youth Employment Decade will provide resources, support and actions that will prioritise more and better jobs for young people. It will interrupt the current trend: a series of global social and economic consequences. If 75 million young people cannot get jobs, we will have to prepare ourselves for a lost generation. Young people must be able to live with the dignity that only a job can provide, they should be able to become independent and participate in the economic life of their countries. Without young people who are economically independent, there is no future for society.
We hope that an action plan like this one will include elements leading to employment but also to training and to building self-employment opportunities for young entrepreneurs- As His Majesty Felipe VI said, “working for the better training of our young people and for a more agile and efficient integration in the labour market are key objectives of any society that aspires to progress”.
Imagine a country where 60% of the population is young, where young people account for 45.8% of the total population in working age. Those are the figures for my country, El Salvador. What would happen if those young people had no jobs and did not pay taxes and did not contribute to their pension plans? Who is going to pay the pensions of the people who are working today and who will expect a decent retirement in a few decades’ time? If young people do not work, the future is unsustainable.
– Youth policies should occupy a more prominent place in the agendas of governments?
I don’t mind coming across as passionate about this because it is in my blood; I believe that youth policies should be cross-cutting and be clearly rights-oriented. Young people have their present and future in their hands and they will be called upon to play their part in upcoming changes. However, the need for a law that ensures a protection framework is clear. That framework must enable young people to have the legal, institutional and social support they need to develop fully.
In addition, young people should be effectively involved in these laws, they should ensure their participation in the knowledge economy; and the administrators of those laws should learn from other successful experiences that laws can be changed for each generation. We evolve and laws should evolve with us.