With young people three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth worldwide looking for jobs, it is no surprise that youth unemployment has become a key issue on the world politics agenda.
The lack of opportunities for young people across the world has also led to a phenomenon of alienation amongst youths, with 6 million young people having given up looking for a job.
The International Labour Organisation expressed its belief that the co-operative enterprise model can help to overcome the current financial crisis and decrease youth unemployment across the world, contributing to social inclusion and poverty reduction.
Co-operatives are a model where people work together as one, they run on the Power of We.
As value-based enterprises with a local approach, they are trying to address the youth’s apathy by engaging young people in stimulating projects.
Although the current financial crisis has posed a great challenge to co-operative development, co-ops have proved to be more resilient model than their capital-centred counterparts. More than 100 million people are directly employed in co-operatives around the world, while the total number of co-op members reaches around one billion.
In Spain, Mondragon organises a summer school every year, trying to educate young people about co-operative principles. In Africa, the Nigerian Youth Co-operative Network, with more than 10,000 members, encourages those who have dropped out of school to go into agriculture and create sustainable co-operative enterprises in order to tackle poverty and promote food security.
Students across North America are carrying on four decades of tradition in building co-operative communities seeking social justice, through the North American Students of Cooperation. In Britain, one year after the riots, the Co-operative Foundation — along with its seven charity partners — hosted a festival in seven UK cities to prove that local young people are a force for good.
In America and Canada young people are teaching their peers about the advantages of Credit Unions as part of the Young & Free programme. Tim McAlpine, the creator of Young&Free explained the best part was: “People related to people, not companies—Young & Free is not artificial advertising, it's actual young people discovering that credit unions are good and then relaying that back to their peers in their own voices.”
Securing a future for the co-operative movement depends upon appealing to the young people of today, also the leaders of tomorrow. José Antonio Chávez, Representative of Youth Board of the International Co-operative Alliance said “one of the priorities of the Youth Network of the International Co-operative Alliance is to encourage the active involvement of the youth in co-operatives and in this way seek to perpetuate the co-operative model across time.”
Co-ops need to co-ordinate their efforts to promote the co-operative enterprise model, whilst giving young people the opportunity to show they can bring innovation and creativity. Youths are eager to show what they are capable of. They only need a chance to show they can make a positive change through joint, co-operative efforts. The International Year could mark a historical shift in the history of the co-operative movement. And the youth could play an important role in making this happen.