In the EU youth unemployment is 24%, twice as high as the adult jobless rate. But some countries are struggling more than others. For example, in Greece and Spain, 59% and 56% of young people respectively struggle to find a job.
Last year, as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, EU leaders agreed to provide an additional €6 billion to support employment of people under the age of 25. The so-called Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), or Youth Guarantee scheme, now plays a crucial role in the EU labour market, with the additional funding frontloaded for the first two years of the financial framework.
However, the YEI should not be an initiaitive to get young people employed, experts say.
Speaking at a hearing in the European Parliament on Tuesday (1 April), Polish MEP Sidonia Jędrzejewska from the European People's Party (EPP) said the issue of youth unemployment is so urgent that it needs more policy responses.
"The Youth Employment Initiative, in my opinion, has to be seen in the wider context of all the efforts of the European Union to fight youth unemployment," Jędrzejewska said, adding that the YEI to a large extent has to be carried by national efforts, and it's something that should be seen as a joint effort, a strengthening of both European and national efforts.
Youth Guarantee funds are available to EU regions where the unemployment of people aged 15-24 years exceeds 25%. €6 billion from the initiative is dedicated to training apprenticeships and career counselling for young people who struggle with finding a job. Moreover, with the Youth Guarantee, member states will be able to obtain additional funding for youth employment programmes that took place in 2013.
Greece, Spain and Italy will receive the biggest share of the YEI, to the amount of €3.4 billion. Although the YEI will provide a general stimulus to the EU economy, it is mostly about giving a chance to young people to gain their first job experience.
"It's clear from the Commission's side that youth unemployment is a major priority. Member states should also understand the extent of the urgency and situation," said Michel Servoz, director general at the Commission's DG Employment.
He added that in some EU countries, young people who are not registered as unemployed or part of educational training are "off the map".
"Some member states are not keen on having them registered because this would send their youth unemployment sky rocketing," Servoz said.
He mentioned that member states face different obstacles regarding the YEI, with delays and misunderstandings regarding the money. In Athens, where the problems are the greatest, there are 600 counselors and civil servants in charge of employment for more than one million people.
Ricardo Ibarra Roca, president of the Spanish Youth Council, said that when tackling youth unemployment, EU governments should focus on promoting growth. He urged the Spanish government to involve more stakeholders in decision making, and to consult institutions that are already involved in issues surrounding youth unemployment.
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