Youth unemployment in EU
In light of the economic crisis, youth unemployment has moved to the forefront of discussions in many member states. Unemployment has traditionally been a telling indicator of economic health and youth unemployment specifically is a sign of future economic potential.
According to the European Commission’s June 2012 data, the EU27 had an average youth unemployment rate of 22.4 per cent, meaning that more than one in five young people in the labour force were looking for jobs.
Reports this past month show that Greece has a youth unemployment rate of 53.8 per cent with Spain not far behind at 52.9 per cent. Malta is one of the more fortunate member states because its youth unemployment rate is well below the EU average.
Regardless of individual countries’ unemployment rates, however, with over 5.5 million young people seeking jobs in the EU, youth unemployment remains a pressing issue that has strong implications for present and future economic success.
The EU has taken several measures to address the issue, yet, more needs to be done to support individuals seeking jobs as well as businesses seeking employees. One of the largest projects in this respect has been the Youth Opportunities Initiative that covers the years 2012 and 2013 and aims to increase the levels of education and vocational training as well as access to various work experience opportunities. The underlying idea for YOI is a “youth guarantee,” giving young people a certain number of options, ranging from continuing education or training to entering the workforce through jobs, apprenticeships or internships.
The three primary ways in which the EU plans to carry out this new initiative is through the use of the European Social Fund, creative and innovative planning and reduced barriers for cross-border employment.
The ESF contains close to €30 billion that have not yet been designated to specific areas for the period 2007-2013. Some of the money can be allocated to this programme. Although this cycle will soon expire, the youth unemployment dilemma has become a priority that will continue to be tackled beyond 2013. Youth unemployment will, hence, be considered in the allocation of funds from 2013 to 2020.
Another way in which the EU has started to address the issue of youth unemployment is by placing greater emphasis on compulsory education. By finding new approaches to education and better engaging individuals in the classroom, the EU can raise the standard for educational attainment, something that will have long-term benefits in a well-qualified workforce.
However, any additional funding and new educational goals would be futile as long as there is a persisting lack of job opportunities. The EU has sought to address this matter, for instance, by encouraging mobility among young job-seekers. By making it easier to find jobs in other member states, young people gain access to a larger market, providing them with more opportunities to find a job that matches their specific skill-set.
The YOI consists of several different elements that all aim to provide a holistic solution to the problems at hand. One part of the initiative strives to support 5,000 young people who are looking for a job in an EU member state. Another part of it attempts to make 600 placements available for entrepreneurs in various small businesses while, yet, another part aims to make 10,000 volunteering opportunities available to young people across EU member states.
Each one of these elements of the YOI has two primary benefits.
First of all, it supports individuals in developing relevant skills in different areas, be it through increased education, work experience or volunteering opportunities.
Secondly, it benefits the EU in the sense that young people are empowered to contribute positively towards society. Since unemployment is one of the indicators of economic well-being, taking the above-mentioned measures allows the EU to pave the way for both short- and long-term success.
The EU Youth Report that was adopted on September 10 shows that nearly all member states have implemented the Youth Strategy Programme that correlates directly with the YOI. Youth in Action projects, which also form part of this programme, saw over 185,000 young people participating in volunteer work and civic activities last year. This means that more young people are becoming actively engaged in their communities, developing skills that may prove vital in a competitive job environment.
Eventually, the economic development of the EU will depend on the availability of a skilled workforce. By investing in young people, we are, hence, preparing to reap the long-term benefits of their contributions to our economies. If member states cooperate and make this issue a priority, the EU will be able to move forward towards a brighter future for young and old alike.
David Casa is a Nationalist MEP.