– By Amy Spekhardt Young American adults are entering a job market that closely resembles the ‘Hunger Games’ with unemployment rising to 7.3% with 204,000 jobs created last month. With an estimated 15% or 6 million young adults currently unemployed, yo …

Walton Pantland

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– By Amy Spekhardt

Young American adults are entering a job market that closely resembles the ‘Hunger Games’ with unemployment rising to 7.3% with 204,000 jobs created last month. With an estimated 15% or 6 million young adults currently unemployed, young adults are literally fighting for their financial, personal and employment futures. Young adults are missing out on essential growing years that will have a lasting impact on themselves and the American economy. Their employment struggles are exacerbated by the crushing amount of student debt they have incurred and the inability to gain experience in the workplace. This ‘Lost Generation’ is not the future generation of workers, they are the current workers that every modern institution is holding back.

Currently young adults are making up a larger percentage of the United States’ unemployment population as suppose to a large percentage of the workforce. This reduction could be accredited to employers requiring minimum of 3 years work experience in a specific field to be employed in an entry level position. The average 22 year old does not have 3 years of experience and their inexperience is causing many to seek employment in any field and position available. Many of the young adults in the United States are overqualified for their current job and in the last 2 years 40% of college graduates are working jobs that do not require a college degree. Young adults’ careers are being stunted for such a long period of time that they are achieving the median wage at 30 years old compared to 26 years old in 1980.

Mistakenly many reports and individuals believe that this youth unemployment rate will not drastically affect the economy or future workers. Studies are now showing that idle and underemployed young adults are missing out on a window that is critical to developing and continuing skill growth. Without these experiences and skill maturation, young adults are projected to command lesser salaries over the next 10 years than other workers years ago. Young adults are also postponing lifetime milestones, which will greatly affect the economy’s future. They are postponing buying a house, starting a family and saving for retirement. All of these lifetime milestones pump money, assets and capital into the economy and without these economic cycles the economic recovery could be strained and slowed.

Yet the largest hurdle for the young adults in the United States is the crippling student loan debt that is essential in obtaining a degree. The crushing amounts of debt that the average 22 year old has at the end of 4 years in college can be anywhere from $40,000 to $240,000. A recent survey conducted by One Wisconsin Institute found that it will take the average student loan borrow more than 21 years to completely pay back all of their student loans. Scholarships, both academic and merit, as well as need based financial aid from the government can only slightly offset some of these cost. While a college education had previously been viewed by young adults as the key to their success, it has become another hardship they have to endure in order to possibly get a job.

The cost of student loans should not only be a concern for young adults currently signing on the dotted line. The level of American student debt could hurt the economic recovery according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The student debt in the United States has risen from $250 billion a decade ago to the present $1 trillion and student loan defaults have doubled in that same period. A worrying illustration of the economic hardships that the Great Recession is causing is that college enrollment has only risen 21% but student loan debt has risen 105% from 2005-2010. A factor in student loan debt could be attributed to a cut in government spending on higher education with each State on average reducing funding by 28% since 2008. Young Americans no longer have the support of their government or employers and no one to stop the ceiling from caving in.

The high youth unemployment could have a dramatic impact on the United States’ economy over the next decade. According to Bloomberg’s Senior Economist the United States is projected to lose $18 billion in wages over the next decade due to youth unemployment. Moreover if over 3 million unemployed American young adults remain jobless for longer periods of time, the United States could lose $44 billion over the next decade. High youth unemployment could be the next financial crisis and not just in the United States. With 40% of the world’s youth population unemployed, the severity of the situation is reaching new highs that will cause unrest and possible political and social revolutions.

The unemployment crisis of today’s young adults is an issue that can no longer be ignored by the leaders of the world. Summits and conferences on how to address this epidemic are no longer sufficient to end the travesties. The young adults throughout the world deserve to be recognized and their problems should be the utmost important. The future of every country and the global economy rests with the young adults and their ability to contribute to society.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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