Young workers and trade union organising campaign

What do we mean by “youth”?

unionYouth is transitional phase from childhood to adulthood when young people, through a process of intense physiological, psychological, social and economical change, gradually come to be recognized – and recognize themselves – as adults. So it is more a stage in life than giving rise to the expression that you are “young as you feel,” which is especially popular among those who are well part their youth!

For research and policy it is useful to pin down the period of youth more precisely. Perspectives on the most relevant age range vary across discipline. In the health field youth is associated with the ages of physical maturation that begins with menarche for girls and more gradually for boys, typically between the ages of 10 and 16. In the social sciences youth is defined by the acquisition of various adult statuses, marked by events such as menarche, leaving school, employment, marriage, and voting, with the recognition that becoming an adult is an extended, self reinforcing process, often extending into the 20s. 

Social psychologists argue that the subjective experience of feeling adult matters at least as much as the objective markers of adulthood, such as age or particular statuses. While much of this research is based in developed countries, it suggests that young people in their late teen and early 20s often see themselves as not-yet-adult. Some argue that this prolonged period of semi-autonomy can be viewed as a new life stage in which young people experiment with adult roles but do not fully commit to them. Laws in most countries designate ages when people can be treated as adults and are thus no longer offered the protections of childhood. One can thus change from being a child to being an adult overnight. But this varies by context or sector. The ages at which school attendance is no longer compulsory and employment is legally permitted typically ranges between 11 and 16 years.

Legal responsibility for crime can begin early, but individuals are typically not charged as adult until around 16. Politically participation through voting is postponed, typically to around 18 or later. Likewise, service in the military, whether compulsory or voluntary, is often restricted until age 18. The purchase of cigarettes, in countries where there are restrictions on sales to minors, is allowed from around 15 to 18. Consumption of alcohol, where it is legally prohibited for minors, is allowed from the ages of 18 to 21 though in some cases it is prohibited until the age of 25.

National policies on youth typically establish an age range for beneficiaries. The lower bound ranges from around 12 years (Jordan) to around 18 years (Bangladesh). In some cases it is not strictly defined, as in Hungary, where the youth secretariat deals with both 0-14 and 15-26 year olds. The upper bound ranges from around 24 (Jamaica) to even 35 or 40 (Kenya, Pakistan). The UN’s World Program of Action for Youth defines youth as people aged 15-24, while WHO and UNICEF use the term adolescent for those 10-19, youth for those 15-24, and young people for those 10-24 year olds.

Who are young workers?

The definitions of youth vary according to culture, history and social context. Among PSI affiliates, young workers range from 18 to 35 years. Although young people are not one homogenous group, they do share common workplace concerns[1].

ILO and youth employment.  Convention 138/1973 sets the general minimum age for admission to employment or work at 15 years (13 for light work) and the minimum age for hazardous work at 18 (16 under certain strict conditions[2]). It provides for the possibility of initially setting the general minimum age at 14 (12 for light work) where the economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed.[3]

However, according to the Convention No 182/1999[4], defines as a “child” a person under 18 years of age. It requires ratifying states to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, including all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; child prostitution and pornography; using children for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs; and work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children

The United Nations define youth as the age group between 15 and 24. Variation in the definitions of individual countries’ official statistics makes cross-country comparisons difficult. In some analyses, the youth are further divided into teenagers (15-19 years old) and young adults (20-24 years old).

More specifically, labour market transition is defined as the passage of a young person (aged 15-29) from the end of schooling (or entry to first economic activity) to the first stable or satisfactory job. The distribution of youth across stages of labour market transition varies from country to country.

In transition – A young person is still “in transition” their status is one of the following[5]:

  1. currently unemployed (relaxed definition); or
  2. currently employed in a temporary and non-satisfactory job; or
  3. currently in non-satisfactory self-employment; or
  4. currently inactive and not in education or training, with an aim to look for work later.

Young people at work!

Although young people are not one homogenous group, they do share common workplace concerns. Young workers:

  • Lower quality jobs, low pay and informality – precarious employment[1]
  • Challenges in youth transitions to decent work[2]
  • Widening disadvantages among young people and increasing polarization[3]: gender, literacy, education and skills, socio-economic background, migration, national and ethnic origin, disabilities and the AIDS pandemic

Global employment trend 2014[4], key facts and figure

  • The number of unemployed worldwide rose by 5 million in 2013 to almost 202 million, a 6 per cent unemployment rate;
  • Some 23 million workers have dropped out of the labour market.;
  • The number of jobseekers is expected to rise by more than 13 million by 2011;
  • Some 74.5 million people in the 15 to 24 age group were unemployed in 2013, a 13.1 per cent youth unemployment rate.
  • Around 839 million workers lived with their families on less than US$2 in 2013.
  • Some 375 million workers lived with their families on less than $1.25 a day in 2013.

Why union matters?

Strength in number: Unions are about a simple proposition: By joining together, working women and men gain strength in numbers so they can have a voice at work about what they care about.

Dignity: They negotiate a contract with their employer for things like a fair and safe workplace, better wages, a secure retirement and family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave and scheduling hours. They have a voice in how their jobs get done, creating a more stable, productive workforce that provides better services and products.

Ensure Workers Have A Voice on the Job: Always adapting to the challenges of our nation’s evolving workforce, unions are meeting the needs of workers in today’s flexible and non-traditional work environments. Because no matter what type of job workers are in, by building power in unions, they can speak out for fairness for all working people in their communities and create better standards and a strong middle class across the country.

Why we should thanks to the union? Please refer to below statistic the comparison that the union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members. And workers who are in the minority status (gender or race)

Read more, here here for the PDF version


[1] Precarious employment is employment that is of low quality and that encompasses a range of factors that put workers at risk of injury, illness and/or poverty. This includes factors such as low wages, low job security, limited control over workplace conditions, little protection from health and safety risks in the workplace and less opportunity for training and career progression (Source: Rodgers,Gerry & Rodgers, Janine (1989). Precarious Jobs in Labour Market Regulation; the Growth of Atypical Employment in Western Europe. Geneva: International Institute for Labour Studies, International Labour Organisation)

[2] Young people face difficulties during the transition from school to work. If you are wondering what kind of difficulties young people face during their job search, think of the times you read a job advertisement but were not able to apply because of the required years of experience. This is called the “experience trap”. Young people are also less efficient when looking for jobs than experienced adults.

[3] Job polarization is also increasing the disadvantages faced by young people. To understand this phenomenon, imagine how technical progress, especially computerization, can affect employment patterns. It reduces manufacturing and clerical work, where routine jobs are now performed not by people but by machines. This phenomenon, together with higher income inequality in industrialized countries, has caused a surge in the proportion of service-sector employment. Therefore, there has been higher demand for high- and low-skilled employment, but not middle-level jobs


[1] Source: PSI’s young workers brochure “Giving Young Workers Voice in the Trade Union”

[2] any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardise the health, safety or morals of young persons

[3] C138 – Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), see the link: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C138

[4] C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), see the link: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C182

[5] Source: ILO, see the link: http://www.ilo.org/global/research/global-reports/global-employment-trends/youth/2013/WCMS_212439/lang–en/index.htm


[1] Precarious employment is employment that is of low quality and that encompasses a range of factors that put workers at risk of injury, illness and/or poverty. This includes factors such as low wages, low job security, limited control over workplace conditions, little protection from health and safety risks in the workplace and less opportunity for training and career progression (Source: Rodgers,Gerry & Rodgers, Janine (1989). Precarious Jobs in Labour Market Regulation; the Growth of Atypical Employment in Western Europe. Geneva: International Institute for Labour Studies, International Labour Organisation)

[2] Young people face difficulties during the transition from school to work. If you are wondering what kind of difficulties young people face during their job search, think of the times you read a job advertisement but were not able to apply because of the required years of experience. This is called the “experience trap”. Young people are also less efficient when looking for jobs than experienced adults.

[3] Job polarization is also increasing the disadvantages faced by young people. To understand this phenomenon, imagine how technical progress, especially computerization, can affect employment patterns. It reduces manufacturing and clerical work, where routine jobs are now performed not by people but by machines. This phenomenon, together with higher income inequality in industrialized countries, has caused a surge in the proportion of service-sector employment. Therefore, there has been higher demand for high- and low-skilled employment, but not middle-level jobs


 

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