Citizen Today

Addressing the world’s unemployment problems

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Governments need to deploy a more active labor market policy to address the ongoing problem of high unemployment, says Angeles Bermudez- Svankvist, head of Sweden’s National Employment Agency and the worldwide  organization of labor market agencies.

“Employment is so important, both for individuals’ well-being and society as a whole. It is a basic part of human life.” - Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist, Head of Sweden’s National Employment Agency and President of WAPES

As Director-General of Sweden’s Arbetsförmedlingen and President of the worldwide organization of labor market agencies, WAPES, Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist is passionate about the mission of both these organizations – to help reduce unemployment.

A repercussion of the 2008–09 financial crisis, the problem of unemployment has impacted both developed and developing economies. Over the last few years, the number of people estimated to be out of work has grown to more than 200 million, an increase of 27 million since the beginning of the crisis.

Bermudez-Svankvist is particularly concerned by key aspects of the unemployment crisis, such as the increasing numbers of long-term jobless and young people who remain out of work.

The size of a country’s economy is crucial, she believes, in shaping what policy-makers can do to stabilize and improve the jobs market.

Time to get active

Bermudez-Svankvist believes we need more active labor market policies, which involves:

  • Measures to deliver more effective matching between the supply of and the demand for labor
  • Focused support activities and training for vulnerable groups to bring excluded groups into labor markets
  • Facilitating the mobility necessary to meet current labor markets needs

She has made addressing youth unemployment a key priority of her presidency of WAPES. “In 2011, about 75 million people aged 15 to 24 years were unemployed, an increase of over 4 million from 2007,” she says.

There are several reasons why young people have been particularly badly affected:

  • They don’t have as many contacts as older professionals
  • They don’t have a huge amount of experience that can help them when an economy slows
  • They are more likely to work to fixed-term contracts

“On the other hand, young people are often highly mobile and flexible, which means that we can use our collaboration to create tools and meeting places that can help them get into the workforce,” adds Bermudez-Svankvist.

The role of public employment services

Providing employers and job seekers with the best possible support is difficult when resources are being withdrawn due to government budget cuts.

Potential tasks include creating meetings between employers and job seekers, reflecting the need to increase cooperation between different groups in society to address the unemployment gap.

Public employment services must seek closer collaboration with a large number of partners involved in the labor markets. Employers, private and public businesses, municipalities and other agencies and organizations need to work together.

Sharing of knowledge and ideas internationally is also crucial. “Countries can benefit from learning from the experiences of others. This, in turn, leads to a better service to job seekers, private businesses and public employers,” says Bermudez-Svankvist.