Written by Richard Freedman in cooperation with Marie Lecerf
The figures are stark. More than 4.5 million young people (aged 15-24 years) are unemployed today in the EU. The EU youth unemployment rate is more than double the overall unemployment rate (20% compared with 9%) and masks big differences between countries: there is a gap of more than 40 percentage points between the Member State with the lowest rate of youth unemployment (Germany at 7%) and the Member States with the highest rates, Greece (50%) and Spain (49%).
Although youth unemployment has fallen somewhat – from more than 23% in 2013 to less than 21% today – the youth unemployment rate is still high in the EU. And, long-term youth unemployment remains at record highs.
Reducing youth unemployment: priority for the European Parliament
Tackling youth unemployment in Europe is a top priority for the European Parliament. The European Parliament is fully aware that youth unemployment has a profound impact on individuals as well as on society and the economy. Unless current trends are reversed quickly, today’s levels of youth unemployment risk damaging the longer-term employment prospects for young people, with serious implications for future growth and social cohesion.
Indeed in a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in July 2014, Members warn that there will be no significant sustainable economic growth in the EU unless inequalities are reduced, and recall that this starts with reducing unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and alleviating poverty. Specifically, Members underline the need to ensure wide and easy training, access to Internet, and digital skills development.
People who are neither in employment, nor in education or training, that’s NEET?
What or who are NEETs? Young people who are neither in employment, nor in education or training – the so called NEETs require political attention as set out in this EPRS briefing on the EU’s youth initiatives. According to Eurostat, 7.5 million young Europeans between 15 and 24 are not employed, not in education and not in training (NEETs) and whereas, in the EU28 in 2012, 29.7 % of young people aged between 15 and 29 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Furthermore, the current limitation of the youth guarantee to age 25 does not take into account the over 6 million NEETs who are aged between 25 and 30.
MEPs want the Member States to take strong measures to fight youth unemployment, in particular through preventive action against early dropout from school, or by promoting training and apprenticeship schemes (e.g. by implanting a dual educational system or other equally efficient types of framework), to develop comprehensive strategies for young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and to implement the national Youth Guarantee Schemes in full. Indeed, the Youth Guarantee is an approach to tackling youth unemployment which ensures that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.The good-quality offer should be for a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education and be adapted to each individual need and situation.
A lot is being done to try to tackle youth unemployment, but is it enough?
A series of important initiatives is being carried out to attempt to reduce youth unemployment:
- the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) (see EPRS briefing), with a budget of €6.4 billion (half from a dedicated budget line and at least half more from the European Social Fund) the YEI is intended to support in particular young people not in education, employment or training;
- a proposal to EU Member States to establish ‘youth guarantee’ schemes (EPRS briefing in French);
- quality traineeships and apprenticeships, focusing on a better transition from school to work (EPRS briefing);
- Youth on the Move dedicated to mobility of young people in Europe
A comprehensive list of briefings prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service on youth unemployment is available here.
Have your say on how to reduce youth unemployment at The European Youth Event 2016
Unsurprisingly, reducing youth unemployment is one of the key themes at the European Youth Event in May 2016 (EYE 2016Strasbourg, 20-21 May 2016). There is a lot being done at the EU, national and local levels to create the conditions and investment necessary to reduce youth unemployment, but are these initiatives correct and what more can be done? Have your say during the EYE 2016!