By Elaine Huang
TOKYO, Oct 11 (TerraViva) – Worries about ending up jobless. Political apathy. A very uncertain global economic picture.
These are some of the issues that young people in different parts of Asia fret about, and which they had the chance to air at the ‘Youth Dialogue: Asian Youths Voicing Their Future’ panel discussion at the 2012 IMF-WB Annual Meetings here on Wednesday evening.
“I’m (in) 3rd (year) of university so we’re getting ready for job hunting. This is the biggest concern of people around me,” said Tomoko Kaida from the School of International Studies of Japan’s Kanazawa University.
Lee Hyo Jin, an undergraduate from Seoul University, revealed that many Korean young people put job security and stability above finding careers they are passionate about. “My friend’s parents were laid off…. This is the real life we have to face. Because of the financial crisis, many youngsters want to get a stable job,” she explained.
Economic security is also why in her country, “many are obsessed with passing the national exams and becoming a civil servant” because the government bureaucracy offers exactly that.
Global youth unemployment stood at 12.6 percent in 2011 and is projected to be at 12.7 percent in 2012, according to the ‘Global Employment Trends For Youth 2012’ report that was released by the International Labour Organisation in May. These figures translate into nearly 75 million unemployed youth around the world, or an increase of more than 4 million since 2007.
From Thailand, Thammasat University student Thitiwat Kaewwatta-naborworn said young people are often divided into two groups – the ones with opportunities to find jobs and those who don’t.
While worries about the future were a recurring theme in the discussion, which had IMF Deputy Managing Editor Nemat Shafik listening to the young people, the youth participants also talked about what they said was a lack of involvement by many in social issues beyond their immediate circles.
Kenji Nakada, who majors in economics at the University of Tokyo, said: “In Japan, we don’t talk much about politics, economics…. Social media will be helpful. This type of experience (the dialogue) will be useful. Then, we can think more deeply.”
At the same time, he added: “Politics doesn’t care much about the youths so youths don’t care about politics.”
Young people also feel isolated from the ‘bigness’ of the world’s economic problems. “Being young in the time of global economic crises is extremely frustrating. You feel like an “invisible observer whose interests and future are at stake, yet you cannot influence events and partake, in almost any way,” Kaeda wrote in an essay she submitted to the IMF Essay Contest 2012, whose prize sent her, and another winners from Asian countries, to attend the IMF-WB meetings here.
Motohashi Takuro, an economics undergraduate in Waseda University, pointed out: “Now, Japanese youths don’t care about the global economy. In the near future, young people will. In Japan, there are few people from abroad so there are few opportunities to speak with foreigners.”