EU watchdog brands youth unemployment programme a disappointment

Youth unemployment

Unemployment among under 25-year-olds remains high, despite the Youth Guarantee's best efforts, [Flickr]

An EU programme intended to slash youth unemployment has fallen short of expectations and failed to help enough young people get jobs and training posts, the bloc’s financial watchdogs said in a new report.

Unemployment among people age 25 or younger has remained stubbornly high despite the four-year-old EU youth guarantee programme, according to a report from the European Court of Auditors.

Youth unemployment across the EU was at 18.8% last June, more than 10% higher than the rate among people aged 25 and over. Greece recorded the bloc’s highest youth unemployment rate, around 48%, and Germany the lowest with 6%.

The European Commission proposed the programme as a way to bring down unemployment rates, particularly in areas hard-hit by the financial crisis.

The guarantee was pitched in 2013 as a plan that would put every young person under age 25 into a job or training programme within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving school.

The auditors found that no EU country has so far managed to guarantee offers for every unemployed person under age 25. The watchdog called on the Commission to create more realistic expectations for the programme and asked member states to do more to find jobs for young unemployed people.

Iliana Ivanova, the auditor who researched the guarantee programme, said policymakers should “not raise expectations which cannot be fulfilled”.

Slightly more than half of all young people who signed up to the youth guarantee during 2014 ended up with jobs or spots in training programmes in seven countries that the EU watchdogs analysed: Ireland, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Slovakia. In 2015, the success rate in those countries increased by 9%.

More than 10 million young people have been part of the programme since 2013, according to Commission figures.

EU ministers plan funding cuts for youth employment scheme, despite its success

European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen defended the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) at a meeting of European social affairs ministers on Thursday (13 October), hoping to encourage member states to unblock a €2 billion budget. EURACTIV France reports.

The watchdog’s report comes on the heels of a prolonged fight over funding for the programme. MEPs have argued for the guarantee to receive more EU funds, while national ministers pushed to shave billions off the programme’s budget last autumn.

In his annual State of the Union speech last year, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker vowed to continue the programme, saying he “cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment”.

Newly minted Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger promised in his January confirmation hearing to include funding for the guarantee in the post-2020 EU budget.

But Commission officials have pointed out that its hands are tied on employment policy issues, which are mostly up to national governments to legislate.

The executive named youth unemployment as an area where there is “a mismatch between expectations and the EU’s capacity to meet them” in its White Paper outlining options for Europe’s future, which was published last month.

The youth guarantee does not receive enough in EU funds to help all unemployed young people in the EU, even though the Council suggested in 2013 that the programme would work for everyone using only money from the EU budget, the watchdog’s report said.

To shore up funding gaps, the auditors recommended national governments put more money into programmes helping young people find jobs.

EU funds totalling €6.4 billion were set aside for the youth guarantee for the period from 2014 until 2020. The Court of Auditors report points to an estimate from the International Labour Organization (ILO) that called for a budget of €21 billion in order to help every unemployed person in Europe under the age of 26.

So far, none of the seven countries scrutinised in the audit have calculated how much it would cost them to use the guarantee to find jobs or training programmes for every unemployed young person within four months.

EU urged to strengthen youth guarantee scheme

The European Union’s flagship Youth Guarantee programme has been criticised for yielding disappointing results. Yet, Brussels has been told to invest more money and time in the scheme in order to push down the bloc’s youth jobless rate.

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