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Adverse Health and Envionmental Impacts of Hazardous Chemicals

24. August 2020 - 15:51
Hazardous Chemicals: environmental impact and health effects of


Our upcoming Future Policy Award: Nominate today

Future Policy Award on Hazardous Chemicals

Hazardous chemicals cost lives – and money

There are enormous costs associated with unsound management of chemicals and waste. The World Health Organization estimated the burden of disease from exposure to selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives in 2016[6]. Costs from neurobehavioral deficits caused by certain exposure to chemicals were estimated to be more than 170 billion USD per year in the European Union alone.

Children are particularly vulnerable

In recent years, the demand for protection of human rights, especially children and vulnerable populations from toxics is emerging. Children are more vulnerable than adults due to ratio between body weight and levels of exposure and are also more sensitive to developmental growth spurts. There is a “silent pandemic” of disability and disease associated with exposure to toxics and pollution during childhood. Toxic substances may interfere with the normal expression of genes, brain development, the function of hormones and other processes necessary for children to grow into healthy adults.

Nowadays, the majority of children are born “pre-polluted” in the uterus with numerous contaminants that impact on several of their rights. Studies measured quite a number of toxic and hazardous substances in children before birth through their mother’s exposure and this increases after birth. Although exposure can pose a risk to all, males and females have different susceptibility to chemical exposure and are differently affected with regard to physical conditions or reproductive health. In addition, children, adolescents and women working in the informal sector seldom receive trainings related to the chemicals. They are also more affected through the use of domestic personal items or household cleaning products.

The chemicals industry is a growing market

Despite significant actions already taken for decades, the Global Chemicals Outlook II indicates that the global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020. Whilst solutions exist, more ambitious worldwide actions by all stakeholders is urgently required. The size of the global chemical industry exceeded 5 trillion USD in 2017 and it is projected to double by 2030 (UNEP 2019). Furthermore, consumption and production are rapidly increasing in emerging economies. Global supply chains, and the trade of chemicals and products, are becoming increasingly complex. This will increase global chemical releases, exposures, concentrations and adverse health and environmental impacts.

The management of chemicals is a key factor for sustainable development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development incorporates chemicals and waste as key factors for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While chemicals and waste are cross-cutting issues across the 2030 Agenda, they are also clearly embedded into SDG 3 on good health and well-being, SDG 12 related to responsible consumption and production and SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation.

In moving forward, it is absolutely critical that the sound management of them is strengthened through inclusive, effective, inspiring and innovative laws and policies globally to protect future generations and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.

Our upcoming Future Policy Award highlights exemplary laws and policies that protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals. We in particular want to highlight laws, policies and legal frameworks that minimise the adverse effects of exposure to chemicals on human health, with a focus on children’s health, and the environment. Find our more about the award here.


[1] UNEP, GCO II: Summary for policy makers, 2.

[2] UNEP, GCO II: 7 environmental health and social effects of chemicals, 145.

[3] Goran Babic, pregnant women icon

[4] UNEP, GCO II: 7.3 Human Health effects, 150-154.

[5] GAHP, The Poisoned Poor: Toxic Chemical Exposures in Low- and Middle Income Countries, A Global Response, 18.

[6] WHO, Public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns.

[7] UNEP, GCO II: 7 environmental health and social effects of chemicals, 145.

[8] UNEP, GCO II: 7.4.1 vulnerable populations, 157.

[9] Teresa M. Attina & Leonardo Trasande, Economic Costs of Childhood Lead Exposure in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, 1

[10] UNEP, GCO II; 7.2 Effects on biota and biodiversity, 147-149.

[11] UNEP, Meeting of the High Ambition Alliance on Chemicals and Waste at COP25

[12] WHO, IOMC: Chemicals and Waste management:essential TO achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 1

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Kategorien: Hamburg

The first Voices Youth Award goes to World Future Council Youth Ambassador, Kehkashan Basu

6. August 2020 - 11:44
‘We want books not bombs!’ The first Voices Youth award goes to World Future Council Youth Ambassador, Kehkashan Basu

August 5, 2020: The inaugural Voices Youth Award, a prestigious new prize to honour youth actions for a nuclear-weapons-free world, has been won by World Future Council Youth Ambassador Kehkashan Basu, a student and youth activist from Toronto, Canada who grew up in the United Arab Emirates.

The award is being established by Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, a global faith-based coalition. It will be presented to Ms Basu as part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Accord, a video event on August 6, 8 and 9, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of the other commemorative events for the 75th anniversary is a World Future Council interactive art action outside the Euronext Stock exchange in Amsterdam. The action will highlight the nuclear weapons industry which is promoting the nuclear arms race, and will call for an end to investments in the industry.

The Voices Youth award is established to highlight the nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament legacies of Mikhail Gorbachev and George Shultz, who are members of Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, and to inspire youth to take up this mission in order to abolish nuclear weapons globally. A youth organization or a young individual that successfully engages youth in this important effort will be honoured each year as they carry-on the effort to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons.

‘In the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the Soviet Union, and George Shultz as Secretary of State for U.S. President Ronald Reagan, recognised that ‘A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought’, an understanding that helped end the Cold War,’ says Alyn Ware, Director of the World Future Council Peace and Disarmament Program. ‘Current leaders of USA, Russia and other nuclear armed States have relinquished this understanding, and we thus drift closer to potential catastrophe. This award is a wake-up call that gives voice to youth who are acting for the survival of current and future generations.’

Ms Basu, who was born on World Environment Day (June 5, 2000), has been active in peace and environmental action since she was 8 years old. She founded the Green Hope Foundation when she was 12, and from 13-15 years old served as the UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Programme) Global Coordinator for Children & Youth. At 16 she was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize. She is a constant speaker at UN and civil society forums highlighting the connections between peace, disarmament (including nuclear disarmament) and sustainable development. She is also an active member of the Youth Section of Abolition 2000, the global civil society network to eliminate nuclear weapons, and a participant in the World Future Council’s Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign.

‘We are delighted that Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons has decided to honour Kehkashan with this award,’ says Maria Espinosa, Member of the World Future Council and President of the 73rd UN General Assembly (2018-2019). ‘Ms Basu is an inspiring speaker and visionary campaigner. She effectively informs and engages youth and the not-so-young in key UN initiatives and processes, such as the sustainable development goals and the global ceasefire campaign. And she advocates convincingly for a reduction of global military budgets – and especially the nuclear weapons budget – to better address the COVID-19 pandemic and advance peace and sustainable development.’

‘I am truly honoured and humbled to receive this award, and am deeply grateful to “Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” for highlighting the critically important role of young people in peacebuilding , non-proliferation and disarmament,’ says Ms Basu. ‘This award also vindicates my belief that we cannot solve these pressing issues by only rhetoric – the need of the hour is collaborative action at all levels. I believe that education is the most powerful tool to create a peaceful and sustainable world. So my call to action is ‘We Want Books, Not Bombs!’

‘Kehkashan is a young woman who does not only operate in advocacy but also engages in the field working with youth primarily affected by inequality, lack of access to education and safety,’ says Marzhan Nurzhan, Coordinator of the Abolition 2000 Youth Network, in which Kehkashan is an active member. ‘She’s been voice of underrepresented young people across the world to lead the way for nuclear disarmament, sustainability and peace bringing interdisciplinary aspect into play.’

‘Kehkashan is a visionary young women who actively turns youth passion for a sustainable world into effective policy action,’ says Vanda Proskova, Social Media Coordinator for the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign. ‘She engages children and youth with government representatives, legislators and United Nations leaders in positive, solution-oriented approaches to issues affecting us today – including how we can better invest for a sustainable future. She is an incredible inspiration for youth (and adults!) around the globe.’

Ms Basu has also been a leading voice for youth, peace and disarmament in events organised by the coalition partners of Voices for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, which are United Religions Initiative, Charter for Compassion, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and Religions for Peace. She played key roles, for example, in the 2018 Summit of the Parliament of Religions in Toronto and at the 2019 Accelerate Peace Conference at Stanford University.

For more information or for interviews with Ms Basu, please contact:

Kehkashan Basu
World Future Council Youth Ambassador
Phone: +1 647 334 8410

Alyn Ware
Coordinator, World Future Council Peace and Disarmament Program
Phone: +420 773 638 867

Anna-Lara Stehn
World Future Council Acting Media and Communications Manager
Phone: +49 40 307091416

About the World Future Council
The World Future Council (WFC) consists of up to 50 eminent global change-makers from governments, parliaments, civil society, academia, the arts, and business who have already successfully created change. We work to pass on a healthy planet and fair societies to our children and grandchildren. To achieve this, we focus on identifying and spreading effective, future-just policy solutions and promote their implementation worldwide. Jakob von Uexkull, the Founder of the Alternative Nobel Prize, launched the World Future Council in 2007. We are an independent, non-profit organization under German law and finance our activities from institutional partnerships and donations. For information visit

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Kategorien: Hamburg

Policy Roadmap for 100% Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

29. Juli 2020 - 10:39
Policy Roadmap for 100% Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a global leader when it comes to ensuring energy production comes from renewable energy sources. Between 2010 and 2017, the country attracted US$ 1.9 billion in new-build clean energy investments (Rapid Transition Alliance, 2020), and with a 98% share of renewables in its electricity matrix and solid achievements to prevent deforestation—around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected National Parks and other protected areas Costa Rica is a global leader in terms of environmental sustainability, climate action and driving the renewable energy transition. At the same time, Costa Rica is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Only considering the direct costs of extreme weather events, climate change resulted in economic losses estimated at around US$ 1.3 billion between 2005 and 2011. Some studies estimate future losses to exceed US$ 7 billion by 2030 (MINAE, 2015b). Or between 0.68 to 2.5 per cent of GDP until 2025 (Comptroller General of the Republic, 2017).

This policy roadmap complements the study “100% Renewable Energy for Costa Rica – A decarbonisation roadmap” by the University of Technology Sydney – Institute for Sustainable Futures. It aims to provide policy pathways for Costa Rican to achieve a fully decarbonised energy system in Costa Rica. Thereby harvesting the many socio-economic benefits of renewable energy.

Full study
Full study (Spanish)

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Kategorien: Hamburg

Securing a World of Climate Resilience, Prosperity and Peace

16. Juli 2020 - 11:09
Securing a World of Climate Resilience, Prosperity, and Peace The World Future Council´s Call to Action

Sekem, Egypt, 15 September 2019

  • The World Future Council calls for
    Immediate measures to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avoid climate catastrophe and to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050;
  • Elimination of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction;
  • Diversion of a substantial proportion of the USD 1.7 trillion military budget to sustainable development;
  • Urgent action to accelerate the transition towards a green new deal while mainstreaming circular, regenerative economies;
  • Eradication of hunger by adopting 100 percent agroecology;
  • Protection of at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030;
  • Transformation of all curricula to education for sustainable development; and
  • The appointment of guardians for future generations at all levels of decision-making.

The World Future Council convened this meeting upon the generous invitation of Sekem, a recipient of a Right Livelihood Award and a global leader in the development of agro-ecology. We thank the people of Sekem for their heart-warming hospitality. As Councillors we were inspired by the living example of a community built on principles, policy, and the practices of regenerative agroecology.

Across the world, a new awareness is growing that humanity faces an acute emergency, endangering the Earth’s life support systems and the lives of billions of people – today and in the future. The damage being done to the Earth is approaching irreversible tipping points, potentially overwhelming the resilience of the natural environment. The decisions we take now have greater and longer-term consequences than any decisions taken ever before. We call upon the world community to act urgently to implement far-reaching, appropriate measures to reverse current trends, out of deep respect for all life.

Read the full Call to Action

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Kategorien: Hamburg

Food Security: Local governments and civil society working together

15. Juli 2020 - 11:38
Local Governments and Civil Society Working Together for Food Security

Food security is a key aspect of sustainable development. Civil society projects, organisations, and initiatives working on urban security are often the only or main provider of nutritious food to the urban most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. However, they are confronted with a wide range of obstacles and interferences in their work. Engaging local governments and authorities in actions on food security can raise awareness and increase efforts against the widespread issue of urban food insecurity. Most importantly, local governments can take action to strengthen the role of civil society within the food systems of Global South cities.  

In this light, this report addresses a number of important questions: How can local governments contribute to averting these infringements and constraints? How, under these circumstances, can municipalities help to strengthen civil society contributing to secure food in Global South cities? What strategies and mechanisms need to be developed to make this an effective and sustained effort? What changes need to be made to urban planning and policy-making processes to support civil society?  

This report recommends nine concrete steps to improve urban food security in the Global South. It provides measures necessary to strengthen civil society initiatives involved in providing healthy and nutritious food to urban areas. It is targeting urban policy-makers and urban planners on all relevant governance levels in the Global South. 

This report is part of the 100% Renewable Energies and SDG project 2019/2020, funded by Brot für die Welt. 

Full study


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Kategorien: Hamburg

Reinforcing the European Youth Employment Policy through the European Green Deal

16. Juni 2020 - 11:57
Reinforcing the European Youth Employment Policy through the European Green Deal

In many respects, the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. At the same time, the world is on the brink of a new dawn. While millions of people worldwide, especially young people, are facing unemployment and the challenges of a changing employment market, the current global situation offers a unique opportunity for governments and leaders to bring positive change. 

Within the European Union, the new European Commission Work Programme aims to reinforce the existing Youth Guarantee, which is a commitment by Member States to ensure employment, continued education, and training for all European citizens under the age of 25. For this purpose, the Commission invited civil society to participate in a strategic dialogue on this issue. The Youth Guarantee is seen as an important step towards realising the Green Deal’s aims. 

In response, in collaboration with the project YESclima (as part of the European Climate Initiative “EUKI”), and the BMBF-funded project GRÆDUCATION, the World Future Council proposed reinforcing the Youth Guarantee in light of the European Green Deal. By doing so, the Youth Guarantee could not only allow young people to gain work experience, but also to develop skills for a green, digital economy, and to boost their employability.

The European Youth Guarantee can achieve this aim, for example,

  • by improving vocational training, which should be closely linked to professional practice;
  • by imparting ‘green skills’ and relevant soft skills;
  • by creating and supporting jobs and services related to renewable energies, circular economy, and sustainable development; and
  • by providing for quality education and education for sustainable development.

In this proposal, the World Future Council also highlighted the exemplary achievement of Wales and Scotland, whose policies on youth employment have been shortlisted and awarded at the Future Policy Award 2019, respectively. The focus of the 2019 Future Policy Award was on empowering young people to find ‘green’ jobs that are fit for humans and the future, including the creation of decent and green jobs for a green, decarbonised transformation of economies, and on civic and political participation for sustainable development and peace. Besides these policies from Scotland and Wales, other sustainable policies can also be found on

You can download the proposal to the European Commission in English, Greek and Spanish

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Kategorien: Hamburg

June News

11. Juni 2020 - 11:34

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Kategorien: Hamburg

COVID-19 — From health crisis to child rights crisis

2. Juni 2020 - 10:56
COVID-19 — From health crisis to child rights crisis

Why health, wellbeing, and education of children across the globe are at risk from the pandemic — especially, but not only, in the Global South

By Samia Kassid

The Corona pandemic is not the first pandemic the world is facing, but it is the one that will have lasting effects on every nation, people, especially children and youth. Devastating pandemics have occurred in large outbreaks, the best known being the Black Death in the 14th century and the Spanish flu that swept the world in the aftermath of World War One, killing 50 to 100 million people; most of them between their 20s and 40s. In recent decades, the world has seen pandemics like HIV/Aids, SARS or Ebola.

But none of the response measures ever taken to fight a pandemic have had such massive short-term and far-reaching consequences and implications as we see now. COVID-19 is transforming from a health crisis into an all-encompassing human, social, economic, and labour market crisis. Most countries have mandated radical lockdowns, issuing travel bans and strict stay-at-home measures, shutting kindergartens, schools, and businesses. This has had a dramatic impact on education, isolation, and economic vulnerability. This unprecedented situation is having an immeasurable impact on the well-being, protection and prospects of children and youth all over the world.

From health crises to socio-economic and humanitarian tragedy

Millions of people are not able to work. Some cannot make a living. Others have at-risk jobs which brings unique stress to their children, partners, and extended family. As economies worldwide grind into gridlock, it is the smaller businesses, self-employed or daily-wage earners that suffer the most, as well casual or migrant workers, and those on zero-hour contracts. Many people already lived in poverty pre COVID-19 crisis, with no savings and no safety net. Their children will now face additional and unprecedented hardship due to the loss of family income and the additional stress of social confinement.

The pandemic and children’s rights

Children in every country, regardless of family background, have lost many of their rights. The right to education and information, the right to play and the right to privacy have all been substantially restricted, and at very short notice.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children everywhere is felt in different ways, regardless of country, region, urban or rural situation. All children are suffering, in developed countries, emerging countries or developing countries.

The right to education and the right to play are in danger

According to UNESCO, some 191 countries have temporarily imposed national or local school closures, including early childcare centres, to contain the spread of COVID-19. Over 90% of students worldwide are affected and the education of more than 1.6 billion of the global population of school-aged children and young people has been suddenly disrupted. They have lost access to essential learning.

Schools are more than educational institutions. They are an important part of communities and hubs of social activity. School closures mean that many children lose social contacts. Socialising is important for our children to learn and thrive. Interrupting education predominantly affects vulnerable children. They learn less and drop-out more. The longer the interruption without a clear timeline, the heavier the disadvantages are for students.

Depending on the severity of the national shutdown, most children in developed and emerging countries in urban areas are being forced to stay at home, mostly in tiny flats with no place to play and little privacy. Where it is offered, digital teaching challenges both children and their parents. School closure is a major stress factor or teachers and parents as it came suddenly, forcing them to transition to distance learning without any prior experience. Teachers may be worried about short-time work or even suspension. Parents have not been prepared for home schooling while also working from home.

For children from difficult or deprived families, the situation is especially challenging. Some families are without internet, computers, or books. Some parents are unable to help with homework because of their own limited educational or linguistic background. It is clear that unequal educational opportunities due to social background will increase.

The situation in the Global South is particularly worrying, given the struggles children already face day to day to access quality education. For millions of poor families, everyday life happens “on the street“ with small and insecure homes merely a place to sleep. A school shut down for a long period of time can cause more than lockdown fatigue. Closed schools also mean, for most children, to stay at home with no proper space to learn. Already, before COVID-19, some 250 million children were out-of-school due to poverty, poor governance, or because of emergency. Today that figure has skyrocketed.

There are concerns that children and young people from deprived families may not return to school after reopening. The severe economic hardships that many families are facing will pressure children to work to bring essential income to support their families. This will affect girls as much as boys. Already, during situations of crisis, young and adolescent girls are twice as likely to be out-of-school.

The right to play and the right to leisure have been stripped away, leaving many children spending many hours on the internet, if their parents can afford it, without proper supervision. What is more, many are doing very little exercise as sports facilities and children’s playgrounds are closed. Working parents without any other option might be forced to leave their children alone at home, which can lead to risky behaviour. Children with less access to information won’t be able to understand what is happening, and will become fearful and potentially traumatised when separated from their parents, or when neighbours or family members suddenly get ill or die, and they have to interact with public authorities.

The right to health, the right to sanitation, and the right to protection are at risk

In many poor countries and communities across the world, children are at risk of not getting the treatments they need. The already weak and now overburdened public health systems are solely focussed on treating COVID-19 patients. Newborns and young children might not be protected against preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, or pneumonia. Worse, millions more children and their families have no adequate access to safe water, sanitation, or hygiene facilities, and stand little chance of protecting themselves and their families from the virus.

A socio-economic crisis is unfolding with vulnerable children and youth more at risk from violence, abuse and exploitation. Child right’s experts fear that with social isolation, there are babies, girls and boys facing increased risk of (sexual) violence, neglect and abuse at home, with no help from outside, because schools, friends and other family members, institutions and youth welfare offices, who might help, are not reachable. Out-of-school children are more likely to be exposed to risks like family violence, child labour, forced marriage, trafficking, exploitation and recruitment into militias.

From a health pandemic to hunger pandemic

While the world is busy trying to contain the spread of COVID-19, there are an estimated 135 million people at risk of starvation and 30 countries in the developing world at risk of widespread famine. Already today, more than one million people are on the brink of starvation in 10 of those countries.

In Africa, people were already suffering food shortages long before COVID-19. Desert locust swarms, the climate crisis and war have all exacerbated this delicate situation. And now with the trade and supply chains broken due to COVID-19 measures, an additional 130 million people could now starve, already within the next few months.

Children are particularly vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. More than 360 million students rely on free or discounted nutritious meals at school. Without nutritious meals, their immunity and growth potential will suffer.

A particularly vulnerable group of children, refugee children, migrant children and children affected by conflict, are already traumatised. They live in crowded and difficult conditions with no access to basic services. They face further threats to their safety and well-being as the pandemic reaches their shelters. The pandemic outbreak calls for a global ceasefire.

Children first! The wellbeing of children must take priority in policy now and post COVID-19

As the world is entering a global recession with uncertain outcomes for economies and their citizens, it’s not only important to learn from this crisis and build back better to create a fairer and healthier future, but also to put the wellbeing of children at the centre of policy. Countries are responsible, under international human rights law, to uphold children’s rights. All decisions taken now will have a long-term impact on children and their future potential. Action on children’s rights is an intergenerational equity imperative.

The World Future Council calls on governments and policymakers to consider the unique risks and needs of girls, boys, vulnerable children, and youth in their short-term and middle-term responses to COVID-19. One-size-fits-all policies leave these vulnerable children behind. The policy responses uphold children’s rights and be appropriate to the unique situation of children and be fit for purpose.

Without urgent child-centric policy measures, the current and next generation of children will bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic response measures, with far reaching negative consequences.

Good and future-just policies for children have been mapped by the World Future Council. These good policies provided a bank of proven policies that are effective. The good policies address children’s rights to protection, education and participation, a healthy and intact natural environment as well as access to healthy food. Policymakers face a stark decision to save lives while also saving the potential for future wellbeing. Children today represent every nation’s potential for economic and social wellbeing. At the World Future Council, we urge governments to share and spread our good policies for children, and to put children at the heart of policy making now so all our futures are protected. Many strong policies already exist in pockets around the world. Let’s strengthen them and our collective resolve to put children front and centre of COVID-19 policy action.

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Kategorien: Hamburg

What about us? Youth (un)employment in times of COVID-19

2. Juni 2020 - 10:45
What about us? Youth (un)employment in times of COVID-19

The youth workforce is particularly vulnerable to the economic crisis caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. Here is what we can do to provide decent and sustainable jobs for young adults

By Samia Kassid

The COVID-19 crisis has turned from a global health crisis into a severe economic crisis. The policy responses taken to fight the pandemic have resulted in economic shutdown, leaving millions out of work, with young people, women and less-skilled people worst affected.

Today there are 1.8 billion people in the world between the ages of 15 and 35 — a quarter of the global population. This is largest generation of youth and young people the world has ever known. Young adults are the backbone of every society, providing energy, ideas and investment potential.

The global recession is expected to result in the loss of five to 25 million jobs, and it will be young adults and young people that are most vulnerable to unemployment. Across the world, young working people will be the first to lose their jobs, or will have to resort to lower quality, less paid, insecure or unsafe jobs.

Youth workforce vulnerability

Young workers: According to the International Labour Organisation, just under half a billion (429 million) young workers worldwide are employed; three-quarters in informal work[1]; one quarter in formal work. And of these young workers, 126 million already live in extreme (13%) or in moderate poverty (17%). Rates of extreme working poverty and informal work status are especially high in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States, and Southern Asia.

Young students: Over half a billion (510 million) young adults and young people are in education.

Young NEET: A quarter of a billion (267 million) young adults are officially classified as youth NEET. These young adults are not in employment, education or training. Before COVID-19, one in five young adults were NEET, two-thirds of them (181 million) young women. Youth NEETs are not gaining experience in the labour market, receiving income from work, nor developing their skills through formal education.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the high number of Youth NEETs results in economic losses of USD 360 to 605 billion per year for OECD countries equivalent to 0.9% to 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product.

Youth unemployment: Global youth unemployment rate is three times higher than for adults (OECD, 2018 data). At 13.6 %, with considerable regional variation, 9% in Northern America and sub-Saharan Africa to 30% in Northern Africa, these young adults and other young adults will be hardest hit by the current global recession. And the young women that make up over half of the youth unemployed, will find it harder than ever to close the gender gap.

Due to the Covid-19 crises, we are speeding up digitalisation. Remote work as well as online shopping, artificial intelligence and automatisation will experience a boom.
Learning from past crisis

The youth labour market is highly sensitive to economic cycles and in times of economic crisis youth employment is hit more strongly by economic shocks than adult employment. Young workers are often “first out”. During the 2008 crisis, one in ten jobs in Europe held by workers under 30 were lost. In Spain, Greece and Ireland, half of working young people lost their jobs between 2007 and 2014.

Twelve years after that recession and despite economic recovery across the OECD, youth employment rate stagnated since 2010 and never recovered to pre-2008 crisis levels. Economic crises force young people into long-term unemployment, inactivity and discouragement which affects their long-term career prospects. What hope now for our young citizens?

COVID-19 crisis is reshaping the world of work and speeding the digital transformation

The impacts of the pandemic on youth labour market outcomes will be severe in developed, emerging and developing countries. Economies with high rates of informal employment are particularly vulnerable to shocks. The lockdowns and the spread of the virus mean millions of young people lack social protection, income benefit in case of sickness, and are at risk through inadequate access to universal health care.

Even though all economic sectors are affected by the pandemic, labour-intensive sectors with millions of low-paid and low-skilled young workers have been most dramatically affected. Young people in developing and developed countries make up the majority of workers in the wholesale and retail trade, accommodation, and food services sectors, and these have been hit hardest.

The weak economic situation in many countries pre-crisis is expected to deteriorate further, leaving tens of thousands of young people as NEETs in the short term.

Besides the increase in lay-offs and upsurge in temporary contracts, for those in work, their working conditions are likely to get worse, leaving many with precarious earnings or no income at all. The International Labour Organisation estimates a decline in working hours by 6.7% for all full-time workers globally; again, the under-30s and young women will be worst hit.

Covid-19 is forcing economies and companies to speed their digital transformation to meet the sudden boom in home working and online shopping. The crisis is also driving expansion of artificial intelligence and automatisation. With new online tools like video conferences now in wide-use, global business trips are set to decline post-crisis, with a significant knock on effect on jobs in administrative support, events, travel and transport. An increase in temporary and part-time jobs is forecast, with little stability and benefits as companies become reluctant to return to full-time employment models.

Sustainable future socio-economic progress with flourishing economies and societies need a vibrant, empowered and employed youth at their heart.

Decent and sustainable Youth employment must be at the forefront of global policy action

The rise of new technologies, globalisation, rapid changes in the world of work, the 2008 economic crisis, automatisation, and now COVID-19 have disrupted labour markets across the world in a seismic way for youth and their chances of decent, long term and meaningful employment.

Many jobs will disappear and the new jobs that are created will leave many young people behind. Those with lower skills will join the swelling numbers of Youth NEET or will find themselves in insecure jobs, with lower paid working conditions.

The increasing demand for digital skills is not only a prerequisite to enter the information technology sector; these skills are also needed in non-technical roles, such as customer services, health and social care. A closer interlinkage between the education and labour sectors becomes more important.

The economic shutdown provides a significant opportunity to redesign economies to fight climate change and environmental degradation and instead invest in decarbonised, sustainable and green economies. Some cities like Los Angeles (USA), regions (Scotland), and the EU have made progress towards implementing a Green New Deal, putting the environmental and clean tech jobs at the heart of the recovery.

Investing in young people means providing decent and sustainable jobs for young adults. Sustainable future socio-economic progress with flourishing economies and societies need a vibrant, empowered and employed youth at their heart.

The World Future Council shares good global policies for youth employment

At the World Future Council, we have investigated and recognised laws and policies from around the world that foster enabling work environments for youth, and help young adults adapt to market requirements. In 2019 we detailed a number of outstanding policies:

Scotland’s Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) tackles youth unemployment and improves the skills of young people to help them enter the labour market, by bringing together educators, employers, civil society, youth organisations, and local authorities to reshape the education curriculum and expand the apprenticeship programme.

Rwanda’s YouthConnekt connects youth to private sector and government employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, strengthens their civic engagement and leadership and has reached thousands of young Rwandans between 16 and 34 years old, raising awareness on employment, entrepreneurship and ICT. The policy serves as a model across Africa and supports the pan African initiative to create 10 million jobs for African young people.

South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Programmedemonstrates successfully how a labour market policy can provide poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed. Temporary labour-intensive employment opportunities are created in public infrastructure and services of high social, cultural, and environmental value. Several initiatives on training aim to create 5.6 million jobs for the South African (youth) workforce by 2024.

COVID-19 has shown us just how fragile and globalised our economies and societies are. Poverty and income inequality will severely limit opportunities for youth employment in the post-COVID world. Investing in young people for decent and sustainable jobs must be put at the forefront of policy action so we can build resilient nations with equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that respect nature and care for future generations.

[1]Workers in the informal economy are engaged in economic activities, enterprises, jobs, that are not regulated, well-paid, valued or protected by the state and society.

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