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Investing in the future while tackling youth unemployment

At Nestlé, we have a long tradition of recruiting young people directly from schools or universities. We invest in them, build their capabilities and develop their professional career. We do so while embracing diversity of cultures, traditions and opinions. In Europe with one in four young people (about 5.6 million people) out of work, we felt like we could do even more to help address youth unemployment. This is why we launched the three-year programme “Nestlé needs YOUth” in 2014.

The 30% Club is a group of company chairmen, chairwomen and CEOs committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of their organisations through voluntary actions.


The New Industrial Revolution affects the workforce in several ways. Ongoing innovation in renewable energy, nanotech, biotechnology, and most of all in information and communication technology will change labour markets worldwide. Especially medium-skilled workers run the risk of being replaced by computers doing their job more efficiently. This trend creates two challenges: employees performing tasks that are easily automated need to find work with tasks bringing other added value. And secondly, it propels people into a global competitive job market.


The world is still repairing the damage done to employment prospects and social equality by the crisis. Governments are trying to create not just more jobs, but better jobs. A new OECD framework helps them to define what job quality means and to measure whether their policies are succeeding. 

©LEGO Foundation

It’s a well-trodden path to observe that the school systems of today are not preparing children for the jobs of today, let alone tomorrow. But what changes to our school systems are necessary to address this challenge?

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Unequal pay between men and women continues to pose problems, despite decades of legislation by governments to address it, like the Equal Pay Act in the United States and the French labour code on wage equality introduced about half a century ago. In fact, not only are women still paid considerably less than men throughout the world, but UN predictions suggest the gap will persist for 70 years to come.  

The Spinoza Factory, together with Campagne Première Productions, have organised the Happiness at work days (journées du Bonheur au travail), in Paris from February 12-14. This three-day conference will include round tables, debates, and interventions by business leaders, psychologists, researchers, trade unions and employees.

Since 2009 the French government launched a new “auto-entrepreneurs’’ status to help small, often one-person, businesses below a certain earnings threshold to bypass many formalities of registration, in an effort to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and jobs. By mid-2014, the number of auto-entrepreneurs reached nearly 1 million, according to a French business creation agency, APCE. However, according to the national statistics office, INSEE, most of these businesses have made little if any money at all. The crisis has hardly helped, but is there a recipe for success?

The question of whether or not migration, and in particular free mobility within Europe, can play a role in reducing unemployment is a highly topical one. In the EU, harmonised unemployment rates rose between 2007 and Q3 2014 from 7.2% to 10%.

©Andrew Biraj/Reuters

As G20 leaders look distraught at a global economy that is faced with weak growth, high unemployment and rising income inequality, they should repeat to themselves that this is not inevitable. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), while putting out another downward revision of growth forecasts, admitted that recovery is too slow and fragile, while recognising the problem of income inequality. The OECD, in its reports on New Approaches and Economic Challenges (NAEC) and its 2014 OECD Employment Outlook, acknowledges that rising inequality affects economic growth and social cohesion, sapping trust in markets and institutions.

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Did you know that the pace of productivity growth is slowing sharply across the OECD area? Moreover, the trend has continued downward since the early 2000s after a brief upward tick in the 1980s and 1990s, which in part reflected the diffusion of new information and communications technologies

Time progresses inexorably. Six years have already elapsed since the onset of the global financial crisis, and employment in many countries is still far below its pre-2008 levels. Even for people who still have jobs, working conditions have deteriorated. Until recently, we were decrying a jobless recovery, but now the data suggest that growth itself may be fading in several countries. The conversation has become one of job losses among family and friends, as everyone feels exposed to cutbacks at work, falling wages, falling activity, insecurity, and the task of simply trying to make ends meet.

Only a fine performance: Actress Judy Davis in the 1979 film adaptation of My Brilliant Career © AFP/Kobal/The Picture Desk

“I am only a woman!” declares Sybylla Melvyn with deliberate irony, in the Australian classic novel, My Brilliant Career. When Miles Franklin wrote the novel in 1901, aged just 19, she was embarking on her own career path, and though successful, like Sybylla, she encountered many social, economic and cultural hurdles along the way.

Eric Abetz, Australian Minister for Employment, and Chair of the 2014 G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting ©Australian Government

The world economy is still suffering from the strains of the longest crisis of modern times, and nowhere is this more evident than in the high unemployment numbers. Over 100 million people are out of work in the G20 countries, with joblessness at historically high levels in several of them. Long-term and youth unemployment, and low female participation, pose particular challenges.

Even in countries where recovery has begun to take hold, the reduction in joblessness has been frustratingly slow, and all too often achieved via low-skill, low-paying jobs. Resilient, inclusive and smart societies need more.

Policymakers have a key role to play in introducing the reforms and measures needed to improve labour markets and bring unemployment back down. In this OECD Observer Roundtable, we asked a cross-section of ministers:

“What actions are you taking to create more and better jobs in your economy?”

©OECD Observer Roundtable No 12.

You say working longer in life is becoming part of a trend, and that it is becoming “more normative to keep working” past normal retirement (“Older candidates, please apply” in OECD Yearbook 2014, www.oecd.org/yearbook). But that does not mean a formal retirement age should be allowed to disappear. Just like a schoolgoing age or a voting age, a retirement age gives signals to guide policymaking as well as personal life decisions.

Reinhard Cordes, Managing Partner, ONLYGLASS GMBH

A promising policy to increase employment and foster social inclusion is the promotion of business creation by the disadvantaged. The potential residing amidst disadvantaged groups such as women, seniors, youth, migrants, unemployed or people with disabilities is enormous. Several methods are available to make this potential a reality. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a commercial building and garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, claiming some 1,130 lives and injuring thousands more. The shock was felt globally. How could this happen? Who was to blame? If the building was not fit for purpose, why was it being used? How could such a disaster be prevented from happening again?

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, killing over a thousand workers, was not just a human tragedy. The ready-made garments sector is hugely important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. This gives dealing with the Rana Plaza aftermath even greater importance. 

Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.  

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Everyone needs to be sufficiently financially literate to take informed decisions for themselves and their families as to their savings, investments, pensions and more. But in many countries, women have lower financial knowledge than men, and are less confident in their financial knowledge and skills.

Promoting inclusive growth; rebuilding trust; fostering sustainability: these were the three themes that drove discussions at the annual OECD Forum in May 2013. Since 2000 the OECD Forum has become a major stakeholder summit and is the traditional curtain raiser of OECD Week, being held in conjunction with the Ministerial Council Meeting. The public event provides an opportunity for people from all countries and backgrounds–business, labour, civil society, students and academics, as well as ministers–to debate and understand global challenges and to feed their views into the ministerial discussions. This year some 1,520 participants from 63 countries engaged with 176 speakers to discuss a range of pressing global issues, while millions more were able to participate online.

In the land of tabloid terrors, immigrants loom large. Flick through the pages or online comments of some of the racier newspapers, and you’ll see immigrants being accused of stealing jobs or, if not that, of being workshy and “scrounging benefits”.    

©Christopher Furlong/Getty Images/AFP

Under the guild system in medieval Europe, a journeyman was someone who, having finished his seven-year apprenticeship, travelled from town to town offering his services for a day’s wages (hence “journeyman” from the French “journée”, meaning a day). After a few years of this itinerant life, he might submit a “masterpiece” to the relevant guild, whose members would evaluate his work and decide whether to admit him to the guild and confer the title of “master” upon him.

A welcome sense of cautious optimism is building around the preparations for the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg in September, setting the tone for policymakers to take a renewed interest in coordinating their national action agendas to address pressing global challenges.


The last few months have been marked by slightly better news on the economy, with signs of a recovery in the EU area in particular. But these are early days and challenges remain. John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), is not holding his breath. He explains why to the OECD Observer.

One of the biggest targets for reform in the pursuit of leaner government budgets is public sector pay and performance. Because of the crisis, some countries have frozen or even reduced salaries, while others have preferred to reduce benefits, even pensions. Others have decided to do nothing for the moment.

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Job losses can prove costly for individuals, as well as to society. Financial distress, for example, can lead to health problems and crime. While policies like unemployment benefits, job-search assistance and skills training can help ease the personal impact of job loss, they can be expensive. Consequently, governments also turn to policies that protect employees from losing their jobs in the first place.

Making labour markets inclusive

In this time of chronic unemployment, it is all too easy to lose sight of the single greatest trend underlying the long-term labour market: the demographic time bomb in the developed world. Indeed, the defining employment challenge of the future will be not the surplus, but the shortage, of appropriate labour. 


©Reuters/Andrea Comas

Few countries have suffered the scourge of high youth unemployment as much as Spain has. There, the unemployment rate for under 25-year-olds exceeded 50% in 2012, nearly three times the OECD average. However, the crisis has not been the only cause of this; in fact, high rates of youth unemployment are not a recent phenomenon in Spain.

Economic data


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