New Policies for the Youth of Today and Tomorrow: The European Commission View

11 April Print

New Policies for the Youth of Today and Tomorrow: The European Commission View

By Koos Richelle. In February 2013, the youth unemployment rate in the EU was more than twice as high as the adult rate, at 23.5%. The problem has been exacerbated by the crisis, but there is also a structural issue to be resolved. There are 8.1 million Europeans aged 15-24 who are neither in employment, education or training1.

In December 2012, the Commission adopted a package of measures for moving youth into employment. In particular, it urged all Member States to implement the Youth Guarantee: a scheme ensuring that within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed, young people up to the age of 25 receive a good quality offer for a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. Finland and Austria both have had successful experiments with similar schemes. The Commission is also consulting the trade-union and employers’ organisations on a Quality Framework for Traineeships, and is setting up a European Alliance for Apprenticeships.

All those in touch with young people need to join hands in order to deliver on this promise.  Employment and other services need to provide tailor-made advice and support. Direct employment or apprenticeship support (for example through reduced costs to the employer), but also the provision of high quality vocational education and training and of second chance programmes are also part of the puzzle.  It is high time to address the structural difficulties that young people face in their transition from school to work.

It is now up to the Member States to make the Youth Guarantee a reality for all young people in Europe. The urgency is recognised by all: in February 2013, in the middle of tough budgetary negotiations, the EU heads of State and governments set aside at least € 6 billion for a Youth Employment Initiative for the next EU budgetary period 2014-2020. It will focus on integrating young people into the labour market in the regions with a youth unemployment rate at above 25% in 2012. A strong political signal in times of austerity.

The youth of tomorrow are today’s children. On 20 February 2013, the European Commission put forward a Social Investment Package, underlining the importance and benefits of investing in human capital throughout life, from pre-school to old-age dependency, thereby reducing the risk of falling into homelessness, poverty and social exclusion.

Evidence shows that increasing pre-schooling education of children by one year leads to a ten-fold increase in school outcomes by the age of 15, better employment prospects and, in the long run, a more competitive and inclusive economy. Investing in childcare and education therefore produces returns not only for the child itself but also for his/her parents, the economy and society as a whole.

There is a lot to be done; the European Commission stands ready to support the Member States!

Koos Richelle is the European Commission Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

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