Bad news is brewing for workers under 29 years old: No matter where you live or what your gender, you're likely to face unemployment.
The countries of the world need to create 600 million jobs over the next decade just to accommodate the young workers who are entering the workforce, according to a new report from the World Bank, the International Labor Organization and other groups. It's a crisis that's already here, given that one-third of the world's 1.8 billion young adults are neither working nor getting education or training, the study said.
High unemployment for young adults isn't new -- in the U.S., the rate of labor force participation for young workers has been steadily declining since the 1980s -- but several trends are converging that could worsen the situation all around the globe.
Today, the world is populated by the largest youth generation ever in human history, with much of that group living in developing and emerging economies. That's putting strain on those countries to create work opportunities because lack of opportunity leads to unrest and extremism among young adults who are unemployed.
Developed countries also face problems of unemployment and underemployment among young workers who are increasingly unprepared for the workforce. As many as 45 percent of young Europeans are either underqualified or overqualified for their jobs, the report found.
At the same time, older workers are working longer -- thanks to the uneven economic recovery, which has left many unprepared for retirement. Those longer hours result in not as many new jobs opening up for younger workers.
All these factors mean youth unemployment and underemployment "has reached an apex" and may grow worse in many low-income countries, the report said.
Young people "are disproportionately affected by unemployment," said Matt Hobson, coalition manager for Solutions for Youth Employment, a group that was created last year by the World Bank and other organizations, in a statement. "This is a persistent problem. Approximately 30 percent of young people are not in employment, training or education, and around the world, young women are worse off."
It's not an impossible situation to fix. The report points to South Korea as an example of how strategic investment can help young workers find jobs while the economy expands. Between 1960 to 1990, the country's economy grew 7 percent every year, thanks to investment in education, training and infrastructure. That helped create a large workforce of young Koreans who found employment, the report said.
What happens if countries across the globe can't find jobs for their young citizens? It's not a pretty picture: National growth and productivity will be stunted, while millions of young people will descend into poverty. Delayed entry into the job market can hamper a person's income over the course of their career, which in turn limits a country's tax base and limits overall consumer spending.
Social costs are also part of the equation.
"The Arab Spring and subsequent youth-led uprisings in many countries, along with the rise of economic insurgency and youth extremism, demand that we explore the links between economic participation, inequality, and community security, crime, and national fragility through a lens focused on youth," the report noted. "What we see is a generation in economic crisis."