10/01/2012 08:32 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Helping Youth Get Jobs: A Sound Investment

Global youth unemployment has become a reservoir of wasted talent and a tinderbox of frustration.

With 75 million young people jobless around the world, tackling this crisis must be a key priority.

It's no easy task. Youth unemployment is the sharpest edge of the global labor crisis and it's also the toughest nut to crack. But it's a challenge we must meet head on.

We have tried for quite some time to make the case about learning from countries that have youth guarantee schemes, and we should turn up the volume on this one.

The idea is to guarantee that a young person who is out of education and out of work is given a job or training, as well as counseling and guidance.

This is not a utopia. Such programs have proved quite successful in Nordic countries as well as in Germany and Austria.

In these times of crisis, governments are obviously concerned about the additional spending, but they should bear in mind the far higher cost that would come from young unemployed people permanently losing touch with the labor market.

Youth guarantee schemes are affordable. Our research shows that they would cost less than half of one percent of GDP in eurozone countries. It's a sound investment on which one can get very good returns very rapidly. In Sweden, for example, almost 50 percent of young jobseekers got work or training as a result of the guarantee; in Norway, the success rate is even higher.

There's also a lot to be learned from Germany's dual education system, which combines a workplace apprenticeship and vocational training. This is not something that can be replicated wholesale elsewhere, but there are certainly lessons to be learned, elements that can be applied successfully.

And we need to give more weight to active labor market policies. Job placement, public employment services, investments in skills -- all of these areas are tremendously underexploited.

All the evidence shows that if a young person is out of work for a year or more at the beginning of their career, that will affect them throughout their working life. There's no way back for most of them.

The first thing to do is to get jobs moving globally and making sure young people get a good start in their working lives.

There is an expense and a loss of production in keeping people out of work, so let's attack the problem at the source. We must act urgently, we must act now.