These are hard times economically, there is no denying that. The national unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent and fears abound that the economy will soon be entering a double-dip recession.
Yet for as high as the unemployment rate is, never mind the fact that it doesn’t include people who have given up looking for work, it hides an even more despairing fact. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report for August 2011, the unemployment rate for young people, 16 to 24-year olds, was 18.1 percent in July 2011. To put that in perspective, that means 4.1 million youths in the United States were looking for jobs and could not find one, not including those who are underemployed or working part-time when they would rather be working full-time. The youth unemployment crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States and the hope for a brighter future economically.
The problem facing Generation Y, our generation, is primarily a problem with debt and jobs. With the unemployment rate as high as it is, many graduates cannot afford to pay the record-level amount of debt they incurred from going to college. Indeed, the average student from the class of 2011 graduated with a debt of close to $18,000.
In a time of anemic job growth, students are graduating with higher and higher levels of debt and being unable to get the jobs they trained for. And with such high levels of debt and a lack of jobs, many students are going back to live at home. In fact, according to a post on TIME.com, 85 percent of recent graduates are going back to live with their parents. This is a serious hindrance to these graduates and their hopes to become more independent, functioning adults.
And to add to the economic woes of the unemployed, when they do return to work, they will earn 20 percent less over the next 15 to 20 year than their counterparts who were employed according to a June 2011 TIME Magazine article. This would only further widen the wealth divide in the United States.
Yet, it is not only economically where these youths can suffer. According to a Feb. 16 article by everdayhealth.com long-term unemployment, which is what many of these young people are facing, can lead to depression, anger, stress, a lack of self-confidence, as well as producing such destructive habits as drinking, smoking, drug use and relationship problems. These are serious conditions and habits which would further the problems the United States and this generation faces.
This youth unemployment crisis is also a serious blow to federal and state governments who are looking for ways to balance their budgets. Less people working means less tax revenue while at the same time more people would be put on government social and welfare programs. So not only would the United States be facing a deepening unemployment problem, but an even larger debt problem as well.
It is clear, since Generation Y is the future of America, that steps must be taken to solve this problem or else this generation could become a lost generation. As unpopular as it may be right now, a short-term summer job program is needed for the most at-risk segments of Generation Y.
The program would allow the unemployed youth to hone their skills as well as provide a way for them to pay off their debt. It would also allow for young adults who never went to college to develop a skill that would aid them in getting a job. This would mean an upswing in short-term spending, but it would only be temporary until the crisis passes. Afterwards, the federal government would reduce spending and receive more tax revenue from the uptick in employment.
Another way this problem could be mitigated would be for the government to give tax incentives to businesses that hire young people. Short-term early retirement incentives are yet another method that could be used to mitigate the problem. With baby boomers retiring, this would free up jobs that could then be given to the Gen Y’ers.
Generation Y could also play a part in solving this problem. As a generation, we must become more politically active and demand better treatment, ranging from soaring college costs to the lack of jobs. Starting our own companies is another way to be successful. In the end, our generation must rise up to the task and work with all segments of American society and government to defeat this challenge. The future of America depends upon us.
Jordan Rubio is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from San Antonio.