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Carroll School of Management

Youth Unemployment

Muhtar Kent

Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

September 2, 2016

TAKEAWAY: Youth Unemployment

Audience Member:
Muhtar, thank you for joining us. Would you give us your insight on global youth unemployment, something you’ve been thinking about for quite some time and I think is going to be increasingly.

Kent:
Thank you for asking me that question, Mayor Reed. Mayor Reed was part of a group of subnational leaders and business leaders that we convened together in the World Economic Forum two years ago now talking about this issue of youth unemployment and talking about this issue of growth with no employment and what we all have to do as leaders in the world. The reason we invited only subnational leaders to that meeting was because we felt that in the world today, subnational leaders, mayors and governors in the world, act like CEOs. They make decisions, as opposed to national leaders in the world that unfortunately do not make decisions in today’s world.

So we had a great meeting, and that work is continuing now in terms of aligning education more to the needs of business, in terms of making sure that vocational degrees—two-year vocational degrees are as important as four-year degrees and universities, as important as the country of Switzerland—40% of the CEOs in Switzerland don’t have a four-year degree. They only have two-year degrees. And then if they want to, they can get a four-year degree as they work at night in addition to their normal jobs.

There’s a huge mismatch in the world, which we have uncovered in that meeting, and we keep on working at it at WEF. I just came from another WEF summer meeting, Mayor Reed, where that issue was again put on the table with Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, talking about how we are all going to crumble underneath this cracked social mosaic if we don’t do something about this—that our lives as we know it, our children will not be able to have and enjoy if this social mosaic cracks in front of our eyes. Because today in the world, there’s about 300 million unemployed. 200 million of that is youth, and the youth is adding, because you have the youngest continent in Africa, you’ve got the youngest geography in the world, the Middle East, when all of these unemployed are being recruited for bad things.

Therefore we just have to all in business, in civil society, universities, like the great ones that are here—Boston College and also our hometown university—we all have to do something about this. Together with mayors—and I say mayors and governors are the ones that are going to help us, because those are the people that think of jobs just like we think of jobs. Your prime minister, your Taoiseach, is an exception. I tell you, he’s an exception. We need more recognition of this in the world. Unfortunately, because of the bickering that’s going on in national government, that’s not taking place. So we need to convene more groups of CEOs, business leaders, investors, and mayors and governors in the world, where we will find solutions to these issues, I believe. Thank you for asking the question, and thank you again for listening to me today.