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One dollar invested in youth skills can pay back fifteen-fold in economic growth

Every $1 invested in education and youth skills in developing countries generates $10-$15 in economic growth, according to the 2012 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) released last week. The report calls on donors to sustain support to education to ensure that it prepares young people adequately for work. It’s calculated that it would cost $8 billion to send all young people to lower secondary school in poor countries to learn vital skills for work.

The global launch of the event was held at UNESCO headquarters, Paris. Ringing the alarm on the stagnating progress towards reaching universal primary education, the United Nations' Special Envoy for Global Education Mr Gordon Brown, urged that every failing country should draw up an action plan to address obstacles to schooling, from child labour and early marriage to poor sanitation and lack of facilities in rural areas, which the international community should come into support.

The GMR is an independent collaborative report, published annually by UNESCO and includes comprehensive country statistics and indicators with regard to the six EFA goals. Visit the GMR website to learn more.

The need for investing in these skills is just as urgent in rich countries. In some European countries, a fifth of those aged 18 to 24 dropped out with no more than lower secondary schooling, and lack the skills they need to find a job. While some countries such as the Netherlands are offering these young people a chance to re-enter education, such alternative pathways to learning skills are not being offered to Europe’s youth on a large enough scale. In Central and South Eastern Europe, almost one in five young people are unemployed.

One long-term effect of leaving school early is poor literacy: the Report estimates that almost 160 million adults in rich countries do not have the skills they need to apply for a job successfully. In Italy, where over half of those aged 16 to 65 never attended upper secondary school, around 50% of adults have poor literacy skills; the same is true for one in five adults in the United Kingdom, one in six in Germany, and just below one tenth of French adults.

The economic downturn has exacerbated youth unemployment and made skills for young people even more essential.

We are witnessing a young generation frustrated by the chronic mismatch between skills and work. The best answer to the economic downturn and youth unemployment is to ensure that young people acquire the basic skills and relevant training they need to enter the world of work with confidence,” said Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO “Many youth, and women in particular, need to be offered alternative pathways to education, so that they gain the skills to earn a living, live in dignity and contribute to their communities and societies.”

The report shows that progress towards the Education for All goals that were established in 2000 is slowing down. This situation is being made worse as aid donors in rich countries are backtracking on their promise that no country would be left behind due to lack of resources. Only $1.9 billion was donated to basic education in low income countries in 2010. There are worrying signs that aid to the sector is likely to slow even further as 2015 approaches, reflecting the 3% fall in total aid to development from 2010-2011. Reallocating aid could help fill the funding gap of $24 billion needed to ensure all children in poor countries enrol in primary and secondary school.

Written: 23/10/2012 , last modified: 23/10/2012

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