DAVOS – In a conversation with a fellow journalist here in Switzerland, we settled on an unofficial motto for the attendees at Davos: there’s a lot we could be doing, but we aren’t.
That’s the overriding theme at Davos about the global unemployment crisis. It’s a slower-moving crisis than the European debt problems that consumed the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering last year. Still, you can hear unemployment being regularly mentioned as a “headwind” in the comments of policymakers and executives at Davos. Several attendees even cited the latest data: Today, Spain announced that its jobless rate hit 26 percent; 60 percent of Spanish citizens under 25 are jobless. Globally, some 200 million people are unemployed, according to the International Labour Organization, with 5 million people expected to be added to the ranks of the unemployed this year.
But this is decidedly not the kind of crisis that Davos is well-equipped to solve: WEF founder Klaus Schwab warned in a blog post Europe’s rising unemployment problem, but also wrote that young people will no longer have jobs “handed to them on a plate; they will have to create them for themselves.”
Jamie McAuliffe, the CEO of Education for Employment, a nonprofit that helps match unemployed Middle Eastern and North African youth with employers, said he’d love it if the Davos crowd would do more. “If we could move some of these conversations to more of an expectation that people are leaving here with commitments, that would be very powerful.” McAuliffe, for what it’s worth, is also the chair of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Youth Employment.
Instead of commitments, there were panels and panels (and more panels), which featured a few good ideas and a lot of familiar rhetoric.