Youth unemployment has recaptured the attention of global leaders after the World Economic Forum highlighted the need for change.

Globally, millions of young people are unemployed and they’re still recovering from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.

"Around the world, over 300 million young people are neither working nor studying and the global economy needs 30 million more jobs just to restore employment levels from before the Global Financial Crisis," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told delegates in Davos, Switzerland.

Joining Mr Abbott in the session on youth unemployment was Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent, who called youth unemployment both an incredibly pressing issue and an opportunity.  

“If we do not do something, the social mosaic in the world as we know it will crack,” Mr  Kent said.

Around the world, one in three young people has been out of work six months or more. Mr Kent noted 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. “For the first time, that’s about to change.”

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 Mr 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,” he explained.

Global Shapers

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 organised in 300-plus city-based hubs around the world.

"We’re part of this issue, so we need to be part of the solution," said Maria Fanjul, CEO of, a leading e-commerce company in Spain, and one of 50 Global Shapers  who travelled to Davos for the forum.

“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 year 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. 

Mr 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.”