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The Rights and Conditions of Young Workers - Background Statement


The growing trend for casual, part-time or contract workers means that many young people enter the labour market with little or no social security coverage, low wages, precarious employment contracts, and in many cases, occupational hazards. Many young workers have little or no knowledge of their rights and therefore lack the ability to defend themselves.

Indah Budiarti, Organizing and Communication Coordinator
Public Services International, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
August 13 2009



Young people have been hard hit by the financial and economic crisis.  While general unemployment in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to rise from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.1% in 2009, youth unemployment is expected to rise at a greater rate – from 10.4% in 2007 to 11.6% in 2009.[1]  The increase is expected to be particularly dramatic in developed Asian economies and South-East Asia.  As revenues shrink, youth are generally more vulnerable to being laid off, as employers choose to retain more experienced workers and the ‘last hired, first fired’ dynamic kicks in.  As economic vulnerability increases, there is a further concern that those young people who are lucky enough to find or keep jobs my face a trade-off between their right to work versus their rights at work.

  • What experiences can APYouthNet members share which show that young people’s rights at work have been negatively or positively impacted by the crisis? 

  • Are young workers any more vulnerable to labour rights’ abuses than adults?

Flexible and adaptable young workers


Young workers are often more adaptable than adults, as they may have fewer commitments or a greater enthusiasm to learn new skills.  A flexible labour market – variable contracts and pay conditions, high mobility, reskilling – is often cited by employers as essential for retaining and creating jobs, particularly in times of crisis (See, for example, Trends in the Workplace: Survey 2009, International Organisation of Employers: ‘Greater labour market flexibility is essential not only for the survival of firms, but also for companies’ capacities to retain employees through the economic downturn.’).  The labour market does not always work in favour of young people, however.  During periods of economic contraction employers may chose to retain more experienced workers and cease taking on new ones, on the basis of increased productivity and reduced training costs.  Despite their adaptability, young people’s lack of experience remains too great a hurdle.  On the other hand, during a crisis employers may retrench older workers, since workers with many years of service tend to have higher wages (and therefore greater costs) and substitute them for younger workers who have to be paid less.

  • How can labour market flexibility be made compatible with the need for decent work for young people? 

  • Is labour market flexibility essential to promote employment of young people?

  • What are some examples of effective government policies/structural changes to promote decent work for young people whilst still protecting enterprise?


ILO: Trends Econometric Models, July 2009.

Moderator Bio


Arun Kumar holds a Masters of Arts (M.A.) in Economics and a Bachelor of Laws degree from University of Delhi. He started work in 1987 as economist and educator for one of the central organizations of Indian trade unions called ‘HMS’ and later as Coordinator for the UN Inter-agency Working Group on Child Labour (1999-2000). He joined the ILO, Sub Regional Office New Delhi in 2000 as the Programme Manager for the ‘Beedi Women Workers Employment Promotion Programme in India’. He has an extensive experience of working in the field on the issues connected with trade unions, employment, livelihoods, development and rights.

Since May 2006, Arun has been with the Programme for Workers Activities in ITC, Turin, responsible for workers education and training activities for Asia-Pacific.

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