NEW YORK -- The next global financial crisis has already started, in the form of nearly 75 million unemployed young people around the world.
If this mass of jobless youth doesn't find work, the consequences will be dramatic, a group of politicians and economists at the Concordia Summit here Friday warned -- from increased violence in the Middle East to ever-higher rates of income inequality in the United States to increased political unrest in Europe.
"Youth unemployment is dramatic," said José María Aznar, the former prime minister of Spain, where the jobless rate for those aged 15 to 24 is 56 percent. "It's jeopardizing the opportunities for future prosperity and growth."
The youth unemployment rate hit 65 percent in Greece earlier this year and 39 percent in Egypt last year, when the country was still grappling with the fallout from the Arab Spring and just before a new bout of violent, political strife.
By comparison, unemployment for those aged 16 to 24 in the United States is low -- but was still a whopping 16.3 percent as of July 2013.
This youth unemployment crisis is "a direct result" of the global economic downturn, political scientist and best-selling author Ian Bremmer said in an interview at the conference.
The decline of the eurozone, combined with harsh austerity policies in countries where governments cut social services, made it increasingly difficult for young people to find jobs. Europe's problems spilled over into the Middle East because the region relies on Europe for trade, tourism and other industries, Bremmer said.
When a country suffers economically, younger workers are usually the last in and the first out, according to the World Economic Forum. And even as young people around the world are graduating with degrees, they lack the skills needed to fill the few available jobs.
The few hundred ex-politicians, business leaders and experts gathered at Friday's summit floated some solutions to the crisis, and suggested increasing partnerships between business, government and nonprofits -- in line with Concordia's mission.
The private sector needs to step up because "there is not yet sufficient leadership" in government to solve the youth unemployment problem, said Notis Mitarachi, Greece's vice minister for development and competitiveness.
Indeed, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was originally slated to attend the conference, couldn't make it on Friday because he had to be in Washington to help the Senate avert a government shutdown -- a possibility that economists have said would exacerbate unemployment in the United States.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the U.S. youth unemployment rate was 36 percent. It is actually 16.3 percent as of July 2013.