A guarantee of training or work should be introduced in Northern Ireland to tackle youth unemployment, a research organisation has said.
Joblessness amongst the young has risen to dangerously high levels, warned the trade union-supported report.
Public money should be spent now to address the problem when the labour market is weakest rather than waiting until later when the situation would be expected to improve, the review said.
"The Executive will have to meet the cost of this crisis at some point," it added. "We argue that money is better spent making investment in young people now, rather than face potentially larger costs in the future."
The 58-page report was drawn up by the Nevin Economic Research Institute, which carries out work relevant to trade unions.
Its Quarterly Economic Observer said overall employment was expected to rise in Northern Ireland by 0.4% this year although output will fall by 1%.
The main focus of the report was on youth unemployment, which it said could cost £300 million in Northern Ireland. A total of 24,000 young people aged 18-24 are unemployed - this is equivalent to 23.8% of the labour force in this age group, the report said.
Around 34,000 or almost 20% of 18-24 year olds are not in employment, education or training. The number of young persons between the ages of 18 and 24 claiming welfare benefit in January this year was over 18,000.
The report said: "Young people have been adversely affected by the recession and youth unemployment continues to rise to dangerous levels. The number of young people not in employment, education or training also remains persistently high.
"Focused action is required to prevent long-term youth unemployment and to reconnect with young people who have become perilously detached from the labour market."