That experience has left a growing number of technology experts and economists pondering whether middle-class jobs will return when the global economy recovers, or whether they have been lost forever.

Italian Finance Minister Vittorio Grilli, also at the debate, argued that technology doesn't have to be the enemy, and "will provide a second wind to advanced economies."

He warned that shrinking birth rates are making economic prospects even worse.

"To get people employed you need young people to be born," he said. "Growth can only come from a lot of young people being very productive very soon. That has to be the first question."

Emerging markets may offer some ideas to the developed world in its new jobs conundrum.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, whose country has generated 4.6 million jobs over the past five years, credited the performance on a host of innovative policies, such as paying the wages of some young people when they first enter the workforce.

"The biggest problem is the cost of entry to the job market," he said. "If an employer thinks it is less expensive to hire then employment becomes easier."

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz suggested focusing on "green, renewable jobs" to help solve the youth unemployment crisis as well as the planet.

In Europe, where youth unemployment is a huge issue particularly in Greece and Spain where the rate stands at over 50 percent, the job market rehaul will not be easy and certainly won't be fast.

"It's a slow process and unfortunately it's going to be a painful one," Grilli said. "It involves people changing their lives."

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