Unemployment rates in Europe have not fallen, despite the European Youth Initiative coming into force in January 2014. MEPs have raised the alarm, and called for greater financial resources. EurActiv France reports.
Although the EU allocated an extra €6 billion to tackle youth unemployment in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25 %, still not much has changed.
The European Youth Initiative (YEI) is designed to help EU member states improve national policies to tackle youth unemployment, which has reached unprecedented levels in some countries since the start of the economic crisis.
The MEPs criticised the YEI, and on 17 July adopted a resolution (522 votes in favour, 112 votes against and 22 abstentions) calling on the European Commission and member states to do more.
Youth unemployment rates are not falling
“This resolution reminds state leaders and the European Commission that the budget, and measures put in place for youth employment, should not just be communication tools aimed at (a) struggling majority,” said French MEP, Jérôme Lavrilleux.
There is cause for concern. Youth unemployment has reached a European average of 23%, and is over 50% in Spain and Greece. Approximately 5.3 million Europeans under 25 are without work.
The European Parliament called for a “European legal framework, introducing minimum standards for the implementation of the youth guarantees, including the quality of apprenticeships, decent wages for young people and access to employment services.”
The MEPs attacked the lack of financial resources for the European Youth Initiative: “The €6 billion allocated to the YEI are not sufficient to combat youth unemployment in a lasting manner.” They want a greater budget for the 2014-2020 periods.
The lack of funds is not the Parliament’s only criticism, which calls on the European Commission to “accelerate the establishment of the Youth Employment Initiative and to publish a communication on how it has been established before the end of 2014.”
Putting the initiative in place remains a challenge in some countries. “11 out of the 20 eligible member states have officially submitted Operational Programmes covering the Youth Employment Initiative-related actions. 7 member mtates have not yet done so,” said EU Commissioner for employment and social affair, remarked László Andor, on 16 July.
“We cannot afford to delay the implementation of such a crucial initiative,” he added.
Currently, only two member states have received funds through the YEI.
France was the first member state to receive the Commission funds, followed by Italy after its strategy was given the green light on 11 July. Italy will receive the second highest amount form the YEI (over €530 million).
The member states have also criticised the EU’s approach to tackling youth unemployment. Angela Merkel admitted during the EU’s Council summit on 25-26 June that the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative had so far been a failure.
“I’m not pointing my finger at anyone, but nobody is able to understand why this is happening. It’s not really worth saying… Again, I’m not blaming the Commission, the member states… I’m just saying that the result is such that we need to change this,” the German Chancellor said.
The French Labour Ministry shared this feeling: “Faced with the urgency and amplitude of the fight against youth unemployment in Europe and France, we can only share in Germany’s frustration that there are not more projects that encourage professional integration in eligible member states.”
Priority for next mandate
The Commission’s new President, Jean-Claude Juncker, put the fight against youth unemployment at the top top of his political guidelines, which he presented to the European Parliament on 15 July.
“The right kind of debt would be a huge investment in training and future jobs. It is our best weapon to fight against youth unemployment. It is a commitment undertaken by Jean-Claude Juncker, the new president of the Commission, during his address to the European Parliament,” said Karima Delli, French MEP.
The former Prime Minister of Luxembourg said in his guidelines that he intended to “present, within the first three months of my mandate and in the context of the Europe 2020 review, an ambitious Jobs, Growth and Investment Package,” more financial resources “channelled towards projects that can help get the younger generation back to work in decent jobs” and finally, to accelerate and increase the scope of the youth guarantee.
EU heads of states agreed in February 2013 to launch a €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative, with the aim of making it fully operational by 1 January 2014.
At a summit in June 2013, they agreed to disburse about €8 billion – more than the 6 billion originally earmarked in February – to fight youth joblessness, with the bulk available over a two-year period starting in 2014 and the remainder becoming available over the full seven years of the next EU budget.
A Youth Guarantee scheme, introduced by each EU country according to its individual need, will apply to young people who are out of work for more than four months. It aims to give them a real chance to further their education, or get a job, apprenticeship or traineeship. The EU has a 2020 target of 75% employment for the working-age population (20-64 years).