The EU initiatives aimed at fighting youth unemployment

Youth unemployment is one of the problems that afflict the European Union in this historical period: for decades some Member States have been struggling against this question without seeing an effective solution. Just think of the southern European countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain. Since 2005, the average youth unemployment that has characterized the EU countries has followed a fluctuating trend, due to the economic slowdown and the consequent recovery from the crisis of 2008. In fact, the highest level of average unemployment rate among people aged between 15 and 24 years was recorded in 2013, when it was 24.4%. Subsequently, this value has been decreasing and it reached 15% in 2019.[I]  However, the socio-economic crisis occurred after the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic will have an unprecedented impact. Suffice it to say that youth unemployment in the EU rose from 15 to about 18% (Eurostat) from February to August.

One of the social groups most affected by this crisis will be young people. A survey published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and by some collaborators of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth shows that, out of 13,000 interviewees from all over the world, 1 in 6 young people had to stop working during the lockdown, and this is also true in developed countries. Moreover, this state of affairs leads to the risk that young people may start to work during a long period of recession. For this reason, they might not find work or work under informal conditions, performing tasks that do not reflect their educational background and experiencing increasing competition within the labour market. A further problem that arises is safety at work. In the world, 77% of young workers have informal jobs, and in economic downturns their numbers tend to increase. The problem is that these occupations are not carried out in sufficient safety conditions, with insufficient representation and protection. Therefore, timely action by the institutions is necessary. [II]

Although fighting against unemployment should be primarily up to national governments, the EU is legally obliged to intervene: "the Member States and the Union shall [...] work towards developing a coordinated strategy for employment and particularly for promoting a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce and labour markets responsive to economic change [...]". (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Article 145).

Following the peak of unemployment rates concerning people aged between 15 and 24 in 2013, the EU's 2014-2020 programme has invested heavily in this area. In fact, it aimed at achieving 75% employment for people between 20 and 64 years of age. The projects developed have been:

Youth Guarantee: this program offers to find a job or an internship in 4 months, rather than providing a period of study that completes the training of the individual. It thus provides the skills required by the labor market;

European Alliances for Apprenticeships, and the Quality Framework for Traineeships: these projects aim to improve the quality of work experience that can introduce young people to the labour market;

Your First EURES Job (YfEj): this platform deals with matching CVs of young jobseekers and institutions looking for young workers for traineeships, internships or occupations. This programme is implemented across the 27 Member States plus Iceland and Norway; [III]

Together with all these programmes the EU is committed to helping young people enter the labour market through projects such as: Erasmus +, European Solidarity Corps and other eventual programmes funded by the European Social Fund.

However, the current crisis requires a specific and timely intervention: to meet the abundant recommendations of the Commission to invest the funds of the Next Generation EU while reforming reform the school system; focus on the transition from school to work and corporate training. Also, the resolution adopted on 22 September 2020 by the Commission for Social Affairs and Employment proposes the following points:

-Increased funding in the 2021-2027 Youth Guarantee program;

-Enlargement of the youth age: from 15 to 29 (and not 24, as it happened before);

-Special attention to NEETs (Neither in Employment or Education or Training), who will also be organised in the context of digitisation, as well as working on prevention with respect to those who might become NEETs;

-Guarantee by Member States that job offers reflect social, labour and equality rights, pillars of the Union;

-Strengthening the Youth Guarantee represents a commitment to improving training in the workplace, increasing apprenticeship experiences for young Europeans and the transition from education to the labour market. [IV]

-In addition, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the Commission expects national governments to invest at least 22 billion, in this recovery phase, to support youth employment. [V]

Despite the enormous difficulty to which all Member States have to respond, the EU is allocating funds, making recommendations and drawing up programmes. In this way, it insists on taking advantage of this situation to work on the long-term objectives that had already been imposed before the lockdown and to come out of the crisis stronger than before. Winning the fight against youth unemployment would be an excellent sign of recovery from the biggest crisis since the post-war period.

Written by Valentina De Consoli.

Translated by Simona M. Vallefuoco.

Original article: published on October 10, 2020.

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  • L'Autore

    Valentina De Consoli

    Valentina De Consoli frequenta il terzo anno nella triennale Scienze Internazionali e Istituzioni Europee presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano. Il suo percorso di studi è stato arricchito dalla frequentazione di un anno accademico presso l’ateneo francese Sciences Po Grenoble.

    Il suo interesse spiccato per le questioni sociali e per la tutela dei minori l’hanno spinta ad affiancare agli studi attività di volontariato nell’ambito oratoriale, così come in quello educativo. Una sua ulteriore passione riguarda lo studio di culture e lingue, tramite la sua esperienza all’estero ha potuto coltivare l’inglese e il francese.

    Nella realtà di Mondo Internazionale ricopre il ruolo di Autrice per l’area tematica “Organizzazioni Internazionali” e di Junior Researcher all’interno della Divisione GEO.

    Valentina De Consoli is attending the last year of the Bachelor of International Studies and European Institutions at the University of Milan. She had the chance to enrich her educational path by attending one academic year at the French Institute Sciences Po Grenoble.

    Since she has a strong interest and inclination for social issues, she has always participated in voluntary projects both in the parish and educational field. Another strong interest of hers regards other cultures and languages. Through her experience abroad, she could pursue English and French.

    In Mondo Internazionale, she is an author for the “International Organisations” thematic area and a Junior Researcher in the GEO division.


From the World Europe Sections Society 2030 Agenda Decent work and economic growth


UnionEuropea Covid19 disoccupazionegiovanile YouthGuarantee EuropEasy unemployment

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