Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL II)

A 2018 Eurostat survey revealed that 16.5% of the 20-34 olds in the EU were neither in employment nor in education and training (NEETs). Taking into account the tendency towards automatization and digitalization of jobs, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, how should the EU facilitate the integration of youth into a more competitive labour market?

By Bakir Haljevac (BA) 

1. The topic at a glance 

Since the Great Recession, the percentage of unemployed youth has been increasing. After peaking in 2013, this percentage has been steadily declining each year due to the recovery of the EU’s economy and the help of EU programs addressing the issue. However, with new challenges including a pandemic-driven economic crisis and large-scale automation around the corner, and digitalization of jobs, it is clear that the EU needs to act differently than the last time the economic crisis emerged. Taking into account that young employees are more likely to be laid off than experienced workers and that they have difficulty getting employed in the first place. This makes the youth significantly vulnerable in the labour market. Having in mind the challenges ahead, which measures should be taken to deal with youth unemployment and help younger generations adapt to modern market needs

2. Key Actors and Stakeholders 

The European Commission is the EU’s executive body. The Commission alone is responsible for drawing up proposals for European legislation, and it implements the decisions of the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU. The European Parliament, the Commission, and the EU governments negotiate and decide European Social Fund strategy and budget. Besides actively investing in the Youth Guarantee, the European Commission is also developing a number of EU-level tools to help the Member States, such as the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, the Quality Framework for Traineeships, EURES, and the ‘your first EURES job’ initiative.

The European network of Public Employment Services was established following a decision by the European Council and the European Parliament to maximize the efficiency of Public Employment Services (PES). Public Employment Services is a network of 32 agencies that connects job seekers with employers. Although structured differently in each country, all PES help match supply and demand on the labour market through information, placement, and active support services at local, national, and European level.

Member States are 27 countries within the European Union. Each Member State’s youth unemployment rate was varying from 6.5% up to 43.6% in 2017. Member States contribute, alongside the European Commission, to financing the European Social Fund. The budget is then distributed by the Youth Employment Initiative to the Member States and regions to finance their operational programs that increase youth employment and provide more job opportunities for the younger generations within the EU.

3. Key Conflicts  (150-200 words) 

Although the EU has taken significant measures to solve the issue of youth unemployment and helped more than 24 million people to find a job through Youth Guarantee since 2013, there still are disparities among Member States. For instance, countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy have a much higher youth unemployment rate than they had before the Great Recession. Having in mind the inequality of chances for employment in Member States, it is important to evaluate the efficacy of EU programs for the Member States that have the highest cases of youth unemployment.

With the fast-changing labour market, the skillsets valued in the past may not be such an advantage for future needs. Considering the digitalization of jobs and the effort necessary to adapt to the Industrial Revolution 4.0, the EU and the Member State governments should ensure that the youth has the knowledge and expertise which meets the market demands for future jobs. Provided consulting services on long-term career planning and adoption to the new working environments would also prove highly useful.

4. What has been done so far? 

– The EU created the Youth Guarantee (YG) in 2013, a new approach to tackling youth unemployment, and has since built bridges to the labour market for more than 24 million young people. Since 2014, every year more than 5 million people have registered to the YG, and more than 3.5 million have accepted an offer of employment, continued education, a traineeship, or an apprenticeship. After an application is sent to the YG, a career offer is sent to the applicant within 4 months. Since the start of YG, youth unemployment has decreased from a peak of 24% in 2013 to 14% in 2019.

The European Social Fund (ESF) is worth more than EUR 10 billion per year. The ESF has provided targeted support for youth employment since long before the crisis and has been vital in tackling the problem of youth unemployment. From 2007 to 2012, 20 million young people under 25 benefited from the ESF through training or mentoring.

– In 2013 the Commission launched The European Alliance for Apprenticeships and the effort has been instrumental in creating more than 900,000 apprenticeship opportunities for young people with the financial support of ESF, Youth Employment Initiative, Erasmus+, and various employers

– To help fight youth unemployment and to kick-start the Youth Guarantee, additional resources were provided for Member States with the highest levels of youth unemployment. This came in the form of the Youth Employment Initiative, with EUR 6.4 billion in funds for the most affected Member States. Thanks to its positive impact, it was then increased to 8.8 billion in 2017.

5. Further links

– ‘Not in employment, education or training (NEETs)’, an article by Eurofound, 2020

– ‘EU measures to tackle youth unemployment’, a document by the European Commission, 2014

– ‘The future of work: Implications and responses by the PES Network’, a PES Network working paper written by the European Commission, 2018

– ‘Youth employment’, an article by the European Commission, 2019

– ‘Covid-19: how the EU fights youth unemployment’, an article by News European Parliament, 2020