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The battle against youth unemployment

Students at Baghdad University, Iraq
The economic downturn has increased competition for jobs worldwide

By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Beirut

Highly educated, intelligent and unemployed - that is the reality for millions of young people across the world.

And now, in the wake of the global financial crisis, the International Labour Organisation, which brings together governments, employers and unions, warns that the effort to save the worlds banks could prove useless, unless equal energy is spent on creating jobs.

"People will soon start asking why has so much been done to save the banks and so little to save us," says Juan Samaravia, the Director General of the ILO. "It's a very legitimate question."

For the past months, Juan Samaravia and his team have been travelling the world with the message that saving banks alone will not solve the crisis.

That is the message they brought to Beirut, where this week the ILO organised the Arab Employment Forum.

Trillions of dollars have been put at disposal of banks. They are making profits but they are not lending
Juan Samaravia, ILO director general

Youth unemployment is a particular problem in the Middle East, where 25% of young people are without jobs.

"Young people need to know that government policies are actually directed to giving them opportunities," says Mr Samaravia.

That's not the case in the Middle East, according to Ghadi Sary, a 21-year-old student from Lebanon. Like many of his friends, he says good grades and excellent education do not guarantee him a future job.

"My parents spent a fortune on my education, but after the crisis it's probably impossible for me to find a job which will make the investment worthwhile," says Mr Sary.

"But what's worse is that there is not a real debate in our societies. Without debate we will make the same mistakes. But now, after the major corporations have regained some of their strength, I feel the debate has been shushed. And this is a recipe for a bigger disaster," he says.

The theory of the young Lebanese student echoes the concerns of the International Labour Organisation.

'No end'

"Trillions of dollars have been put at disposal of banks and they are telling us banks are making profits but they are not lending," says ILO's director general Juan Samaravia.

The ILO is calling on the governments to target job creation in the same way that they target issues like inflation. And the members of the organisation have recently agreed on a set list of recommendations that could bring about policy changes needed to boost employment.

The Arab Employment Forum was one of many events the ILO is holding around the world, that are designed to adopt these general recommendations to individual countries. But translating these recommendations into concrete policy changes will be a real challenge.

The ILO says there will be no recovery, no end to the crisis unless more is done to create jobs.



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