Compared with the estimated 51,300 young people aged between 15 and 24 who are unemployed, the 10,000 to benefit from the $400 million youth work experience and training scheme announced in the Budget on Wednesday constitute but a fraction. While cynics may dismiss the scheme as a ploy to lower the 12.7 per cent unemployment rate of that age group, the Government should be commended for taking serious steps to address the issue of young people out of work. And if that should involve paying employers to create jobs for them, then so be it. It is far better than seeing a large number of young people not going to school or work and idling their hours away by drifting aimlessly in the streets. Worse, they are easy prey for triads, who are known to have lured them to earn quick money by selling all kinds of contraband, including pirated video discs and soft drugs. Once they go astray, the social costs of putting them on the right track again is a lot more than the $2,000 a month that the Government plans to pay employers for hiring a young person. A broader issue underlying youth unemployment that the Government needs to address is the large number of young people leaving school without any proper qualifications. Last year, of the 76,663 day-school candidates who took the Certificate of Education Examination, 51.4 per cent, or about 39,400, failed to achieve the minimum qualification for promotion to the next level of education or employment - that is, passes in five subjects including Chinese, English and Mathematics. In 2000, the figure was 52.5 per cent, or 42,000 candidates. To put it bluntly, these young people are practically unemployable, at least not by the service sector, which is the backbone of the economy. That so many of our young people are leaving school semi-literate is a serious indictment of our education system. That system is being overhauled with a view to producing fewer failures, but it will take years before the reform bears fruit. Meanwhile, the community should spare no effort to try to give those young people a sense of hope by providing them with alternative learning or work opportunities.