Putting the young to workStarbucks has initiated a program in collaboration with more than a dozen major U.S. corporate names to create jobs for young people. The so-called 100,000 Opportunities Initiative wants to create 100,000 jobs for people aged between 16 and 24 through hiring, apprenticeships and internships by 2018. Joining the program are companies from a range of industries such as Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, Macy’s, CVC Health, Hilton, JCPenny and Target.
The overall unemployment rate in the U.S. has eased in recent years. The jobless rate that neared 10 percent in 2008 fell to 5.4 percent last month thanks to a revival of the economy through years of monetary stimuli. Lured by a series of incentives, manufacturers have also returned home. But the youth unemployment rate remains high: 12.1 percent last month, down from 19.5 percent in 2008.
The initiative is also designed to help ease inequalities through employment programs. The job opportunities will first go to 5.6 million people aged 16 to 24 who have no college degrees. Giving them jobs does not only solve economic problems, but also prevents the youth from going astray.
Korea’s youth joblessness has long been a serious problem. The unemployment rate among young people is expected to hit 9.5 percent this year, compared with 5.3 percent during the financial crisis in the late 1990s. Young people have given up on building a family and are isolating themselves from society. It is the government’s duty to provide the infrastructure for job creation by strengthening the economy and broadening the job market. But the private sector must contribute in supplying stable jobs. Job creation should be an important part of companies’ social responsibilities in increasing investment and charity activities. Local companies have taken their manufacturing base overseas. The economy has been growing without meaningful job increases for the last decade. Companies pledging multi-billion-dollar investments today mean little to the average person.
But companies alone cannot solve unemployment. The labor sector must also cooperate. To increase opportunities for young people, working employees must make room for them by accepting the peak wage system. But at the end of the day, it is the employers who have the say in recruitment.
“We are living at a time when for-profit public companies must redefine their responsibility to the communities they serve and to their employees,” Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz said.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 15, Page 34