The International Youth Foundation recently released a report that looks at the growing education and social challenges facing youth around the world. Commissioned by Microsoft, it underlines the emergence of an worldwide opportunity divide among young people.

At a time when we have 1.2 billion young people—the most at any point in history—there’s an urgent need to provide the education, skills, and employment opportunities they need to succeed in today’s rapidly changing global economy. So what are the current conditions for youth?

The global unemployment rate for young people is currently 12.7 percent, more than double the global average for unemployment as a whole. While some youth are prospering, many others who lack access to education, skills, and opportunities face growing challenges. As the global youth population grows over time, the gap risks widening even further between those with opportunity and those without.

The Opportunity for Action report reveals that nearly 75 million young people around the world are unemployed and only 44 percent of youth worldwide currently pursue education as far as the equivalent of the high school level in the United States. This is becoming a bigger issue as more jobs now require higher levels of skill and education. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that by 2018, 62 percent of the workforce will require some college education. Yet today, 16 percent of American youth ages 18–24 fail to even complete high school.

In Latin America, youth have greater access to education than ever before, but there are still low education completion rates across the region. Meanwhile in the Middle East and Africa, there is a growing number of youth with a university education, but they’re finding there are no jobs to match their advanced skills.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where 25 percent of children are not even enrolled in primary school, young people are grossly underemployed in low-skill, low-quality jobs and 72 percent earn less than $2USD per day simply to survive.

The factors behind this opportunity divide differ from country to country, but the overall global trend is the same everywhere. Unemployment for young people is rising and we need the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to work together to provide youth with access to the education, skills, and job opportunities they need.

For the past decade, Microsoft has invested in programs and partnerships to help millions of young people around the world create a better future for themselves through education, skills training, and job placement. However, there’s a lot more work to be done.

Microsoft is working with governments, nonprofits, industry colleagues, educators, and youth themselves to close the opportunity divide. A first step is shining a light on the problem through this report and learning directly from young people, which we’ll do through events taking place around the globe. We plan to incorporate the insights gained from these discussions and use them to help us develop new plans and programs to bridge the opportunity divide.

How do you think we can help create a better tomorrow for youth around the world?

Microsoft Citizenship Team

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