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Young people, not without hope, are now most impoverished demographic
Poverty rates are now highest among people aged 18-25, according to a report. There is hope to reverse the trend, however, and it lies with education. - photo by Omar Etman
A report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an economic cooperative of 34 countries including the United States, found that poverty rates are now highest among young adults ages 18-25.

Most of the OECD member nations included in the findings are western and wealthy but they were hit hard by the global recession and no population has felt the impact harder than the young adults.

More than 35 million young people are neither employed nor in education or training, according to the report, called the Skills Outlook, and the number is climbing. It represents "not only a personal calamity for those individuals concerned, says the report, but a squandered investment, because the skills acquired during education are not being put to productive use.

There is hope to reverse the trend, however, and it lies with the education system.

The effects of poverty on schools are especially felt in the United States. Last week, a survey of the top teacher from each state, conducted by Scholastic Inc., found that family stress and poverty are the biggest factors hurting student success. Asked which areas they felt needed more funding, the teachers returned three top choices: anti-poverty training, early learning and reducing barriers to learning.

The data in the OECD report reflected the areas of insufficiency. Of all participating countries, the United States came in last place in numeracy and four spots from the bottom in literacy. As poverty among young people rises, education suffers, and vice versa. An improved educational system would end the cycle.

In the report, the OECD addressed the ways to strengthen youth employability, beginning with shrinking the divide between skills gained in schools and their implementation in the workforce. Addressing this disconnect, and meeting needs of students and teachers, according to the report, will re-engage young people and lift them out of poverty.

Youth unemployment and underemployment have adverse and long-lasting consequences for both the individuals and the countries involved, the report says. It is in everyones interest, then, to work together so that young people have a smoother and faster route from the classroom to the workplace.
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