On the last days of year 2010, the Colombian Congress passed a rather unnoticed and little commented law to stimulate youth employment. Despite its simplicity, Ley 1492—also known as ley de formalización y generación de empleo—carries an ambitious goal: reducing Colombia’s pervasive youth (ages 15 to 24) unemployment. Last year it reached 24 percent, and despite projections of GDP growth around 5 percent, it is expected to rise in 2011.
The core of the law can be synthetized by two basic strategies: encouraging young people under 28 to create companies through special state-financed loans and using fiscal discounts to reward companies who hire a young labor force.
But the well-intentioned law risks clashing with a harsh reality: the severe disconnection between the skills we are teaching to our future labor force and what industries need. Most governmental efforts are oriented toward creating more qualified workers, but without reliable information on the abilities that new and growing industries are desperately demanding.