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Posted at 02:32 PM ET, 01/26/2012

Davos panel: Can we avert a lost generation?


The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 in Davos, Switzerland. (The Washington Post)
DAVOS, Switzerland — Young people have been the focus of a number of meetings at this year’s World Economic Forum. But for me, one discussion in particular stood out: a panel convened to explore the potential of a lost generation.

Panelists discussed reasons why so many young people – particularly in Europe and the Middle East – were so angry and frustrated. They tackled such questions as how to diagnose and fix the mismatch between education and the job market, how to improve education and how to harness the energy of youth while retaining the wisdom of the older generations.

But educational opportunity, said one panelist, was not enough. A robust economy is also necessary to make sure well-trained lawyers, doctors and other professionals are able to use their skills.

The question of whether raising the retirement age leaves young people high and dry was also addressed. Panelists said research showed that older workers’ departure from the workforce did not directly correlate with more jobs for younger people. But that research has not been able to sufficiently kill the perception among the young that they are being prevented from reaching their full potential professionally.

The concern that the panel had only one representative of the Forum’s newly minted Global Shapers group on stage was raised at the beginning of the talk by a member of the group sitting in the audience. Clearly, the Forum, as well as its more senior and younger members, are learning how to incorporate a new generation into the discussion while not jettisoning its more senior members.

It’s a delicate dance in a small platform of the global economic stage.

“It’s supremely difficult to have a discussion about averting a lost generation when youth unemployment takes on such a different character in every country,” said Aria Finger of DoSomething.org., the lone Global Shaper on the panel.

But, at the Forum, there was a moment where, at least, some of those problems were put on the table.

Kolawole is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper
community in Washington and is reporting from Switzerland.

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By  |  02:32 PM ET, 01/26/2012

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