• Share

Youth Unemployment Crisis Takes Center Stage in Davos

By:  Jay Moye Jan 23, 2014
Muhtar Kent at the World Economic Forum in Davos
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Photo Rémy Steinegger

'If we do not do something, the social mosaic in the world as we know it will crack,” said Coke's Muhtar Kent, who chairs the World Economic Forum's International Business Committee. 

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND -- Leaders at this week's World Economic Forum annual meeting are tackling an issue that threatens the long-term stability of the global economy: youth unemployment.

“If we do not do something, the social mosaic in the world as we know it will crack,” Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent said today during a plenary session titled “The Millennial Challenge.”

Around the world, 75 million young people are currently unemployed, and one in three has been out of work six months or more. Kent called youth unemployment both “an incredibly pressing issue and an opportunity,” noting that reducing the youth unemployment rate by 1 percent adds $75 billion to the global economy. He challenged business, government and civil society leaders to come together to find creative, sustainable solutions to the escalating crisis.

“Until now, every generation has had better opportunities than the previous generation,” Kent said during an interview with HuffPost Live. “For the first time, that’s about to change.”

On Tuesday, the 120 CEOs that comprise the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council met with NGO leaders, university heads and mayors from several of the world’s largest cities. The group explored ideas on fostering entrepreneurship, providing hands-on training through accredited apprenticeships and internships, and working with universities to develop education programs focused on relevant business skills.

“Some great ideas surfaced,” said Kent, who chairs the council. “Now we have to go out and make it happen on the ground.”

Sub-national government leaders are a key part of the equation because “they’re action-biased and time-pressed, just like we are in business,” Kent explained.

Members of another action-biased community -- the World Economic Forum Global Shapers -- added a Millennial perspective to the discussion. The growing network of more than 3,000 social entrepreneurs under the age of 30 is organized in 300-plus city-based hubs around the world.

Maria Fanjul and Muhtar Kent at the World Economic Forum in Davos
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Photo Rémy Steinegger

'We're people of action,' said Maria Fanjul, Global Shaper and CEO of entradas.com.

"We’re part of this issue, so we need to be part of the solution," said Maria Fanjul, CEO of entradas.com, a leading e-commerce company in Spain. She’s one of 50 Global Shapers in Davos this week.

“We’re already putting projects into practice that can be leveraged and shared,” she added. “We’re people of action.”

Coca-Cola, a founding partner of the Global Shapers, earlier this week announced the winners of the “Shaping A Better Future Grant Challenge.” The competition, which launched at the 2013 World Economic Forum, invited Global Shapers to build programs that address youth employment, education, community security and the environment. Winners were presented with seed money to sustain and expand their initiatives. 

Kent called the Global Shapers “one of the best things the World Economic Forum has done in the last three years.”

“Global Shapers bring a new voice, a new way of thinking—because they are themselves the youth, and we’re talking about their opportunities and their issues,” he said. “They help shape the dialogue.”

Muhtar Kent spoke about the youth unemployment crisis and more today with several international media outlets in Davos. Take a look.