Even though youth unemployment has become a top priority for EU policy-makers, the quality of employment available for young people has been largely overlooked, according to the European Youth Forum. The ‘any job is a good job’ is turning into a new mantra, they say.
Speaking at the European Parliament on Monday (7 April), the vice president of the European Youth Forum, Lloyd Russel-Moyle, said that the youth guaranteed is a disappointment and is open to abuse, because it doesn’t exclude unpaid internships. Young people should have a right to decent occupation, he stated.
“Internships are of course useful, but only if they are proberly regulated. Or else it’s just cheap labour,” the vice president said.
At the moment, almost 50% of Europe’s youth have completed an internship. Giorgio Zecca, policy and advocacy coordinator at the European Youth Forum, added that the financial crisis of the past six years has even created great differences within the EU labour markets between young employed people and older workers.
For example, 42% of young EU workers are on temporary contract, which compares with 13% among adult workers. There are large variations in the levels of temporary work depending on where young people are in Europe. In Slovenia, Poland and Spain, over 60% of young people are in temporary employment, whereas in Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania, this figure stands at less than 10%.
One out of five young people in Europe fear losing their jobs, due to a lack of job security. This is affecting the health of young people, Zecca said. In Germany, 21% of young workers engaged in flexible work, such as shift work and working overtime, suffer from fatigue. In the UK, job stress has gone up and job-related well-being has declined since 2006.
Another area of concern is that in the EU, 10% of those under 25 are employed without contracts, 30% are at risk of poverty because they get sub-minimum wages, especially in the UK, Germany and Greece.
What to do with the money
Marije Cornelissen, a Dutch Green MEP, said that the promise of the youth guarantee, according to which no one should be sitting at home for more than four months, is a step in the right direction from the EU politicians’ side. But now they need to make up their minds about what to do with the money.
Cornelissen said that politicians also need to look at solutions for housing, which have prevented some young people from getting employed. Another problem has been the lack of financing for startups, where micro-finance facilities could be introduced for young entrepreneurs. The Dutch MEP said she worried that the problems of resolving basic living conditions for young people will now have a negative impact on demographics in the future.
Rebecca Taylor, a liberal MEP from the UK, also warned that Europe is at risk of losing a whole generation, and that unemployment will have a “knock-on effect” later in life.
Claire Courteille, director of the International Labour Organisation in Brussels, said that while her organisation welcomes the YEI, it should not be the final point. Courteille stated that while the EU has earmarked €8 billion to youth employment, the International Labour Organisation has calculated that in the eurozone alone, €21 billion is needed.
The director stressed, therefore, that better monitoring of the youth scheme should be approached. This was backed by Russel-Moyle who mentioned that the monitoring could be done as part of the European Semester, when the Commission gives country-specific recommendations. Russel-Moyle said that currently 22 EU member states have submitted their plan with the youth guarantee, but not much is open to the public.
“Young people are being told that they are not matching the jobs. Putting the fault on them isn’t fair. There just aren’t enough jobs and we should deal with this via macroeconomics,” he said.
Salvatore Marra, the president of the European Trade Union Confederation Youth Committee, said that there are three main problems with the current YEI Council proposal: The lack of implementation in most member states, that €8 billion isn’t enough money and the fact that there’s no binding wording securing quality jobs.
“We have had enough policy papers. Now we need actions. Young people can no longer wait for promises. The Youth Employment Initiative risks being a failure. Young people will rembember this when they vote in the Parliament elections,” Marra stated.
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).
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