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EU tackling unemployment

The stark reality of unacceptable unemployment figures continues to dominate our headlines, serving as a constant reminder of the challenges that we will carry into the new year. The most recent employment statistics for 2012 show that the EU27 has a 10.7 per cent unemployment rate and that the euro area is slightly higher at 11.7 per cent. It has been spared this hardship, with unemployment figures well below the EU average.

The European Union continues to treat this issue as a priority and is taking a proactive approach
- David Casa

In order to facilitate the search for employment opportunities, the European Union established EURES, a job search network that helps match jobseekers to adequate vacancies. The goal is to promote and support job mobility between member states, and EURES provides a central information portal that individuals can avail themselves of.

Beyond EURES, more recent measures have equally been taken to address the current unemployment woes. Youth on the Move was launched in 2010 as part of the Europe 2020 strategy. Its primary goal is to improve the level of education and employability among the younger generation and to consequently drive down the youth unemployment rate. In order to achieve this, the strategy aims to ensure that training opportunities are tailored to young people’s needs, to communicate the benefits of EU study grants to them and to facilitate the leap from education to work.

Part of Youth on the Move is the Youth Opportunities Initiative (YOI) that was passed in 2011. This initiative specifically focuses on helping early school leavers to return to school or take advantage of other training opportunities.

It also support graduates in obtaining their first job.

A further action entitled Your First EURES Job aims to specifically assist young European job seekers in finding employment in another member state.

It is based on the support from various national employment agencies in different member states and seeks to effectively match individuals with job vacancies that are suitable for them and to provide funds to help cover the costs for job interviews and training.

This action is available to jobseekers from the EU between 18 and 30 years of age.

For the period from 2012 to 2013, Your First EURES Job aims to find and fill job openings for a total of 5,000 individuals.

Together, these actions serve as important steps forward in the struggle against unemployment. They are signs that the European Union continues to treat this issue as a priority, and is taking a proactive approach towards alleviating the problem itself, as well as its long-term implications.

In addition to the recent measures taken, the Commission is also revisiting already-existing strategies. Last month, it adopted a decision to make improvements to its EURES job network, as mentioned above. For the 25 million individuals that are out of work in the EU, improving this programme will make it easier to identify job openings in other member states that are compatible with their skills.

The Commission has therefore outlined five primary areas that it hopes to improve upon. These include addressing skills shortages, ensuring better coordination at national levels and making the portal more user-friendly and interactive.

The EURES job portal has become a more popular option for many employment-seeking individuals in recent times. In fact, while the number of individuals from Portugal, Greece and Spain who signed up with the network reportedly stood at around 60,000 in 2009, it is said to have risen to some 300,000 by last month.

One feature of this network is that it makes advisers available, who help with job matching as well as training. They serve as liaisons between those seeking employment and those seeking to fill vacancies. In addition, they can provide services such as cultural and language classes that will help individuals to adapt to a new environment.

Through the improvement of already-existing schemes and the introduction of new initiatives, the EU aims to tackle the current unemployment issue from various angles. While the current situation remains challenging, these initiatives demonstrate that the EU is rolling up its sleeves to come to grips with the problems that citizens are facing on the employment market.

While many of these challenges will be carried over into the new year, the recent initiatives taken also provide renewed hopes and confidence in the efforts that the EU is making in order to address issues that are of vital importance to millions of citizens. Hopefully these initiatives will create a more positive outlook on the employment market in the year to come.

David Casa is a Nationalist MEP.

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