Can Juncker’s investment plan live up to the promise it offers young people?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Allan Päll [European Youth Forum]

The Juncker Investment Plan offers a huge economic opportunity for the EU. If MEPs put their political differences aside and make the right decisions, it could help lift millions of young Europeans out of unemployment, writes Allan Päll.

Allan Päll is Secretary General of the European Youth Forum.

Last summer President Juncker talked about a 29th EU Member State of unemployed young people. Following the rhetoric and promises made by politicians to young people both before and after the European elections last year, Europe’s young people had high hopes of the promises being turned into action.

And there have indeed been some positive steps in that direction. The Investment Plan for Europe, published by Mr. Juncker’s Commission towards the end of last year, offers some hope that large numbers of jobs should be created through significant investment in carefully chosen areas (a recent report by the International Labour Organisation found that if projects for investment are carefully selected then 2.1 million new jobs could be created by 2018).

This is the key issue though: if the Investment Plan is really going to make a difference to the lives of young people and help to tackle inequality then the projects invested in must consider the long-term potential and the development of young people, for example by investing in the fields of education, research and innovation.

With 5 million young people in Europe unemployed, the Investment Plan has the potential to pull young people out of the difficult situation that they have been in for far too long and to give them the hope of a decent job. Just last week, EuroStat published new data revealing that the average age of young people leaving their parental home in EU Member States in 2013 was 26, but this varies from country to country, with European countries with particularly high youth unemployment rates, low wages and difficult housing markets such as Greece, Portugal and Spain having the highest average age of leaving home. This new evidence confirms our belief that the transition from youth to adulthood has never been more challenging.

If the Investment Plan is successful in creating a significant number of jobs for young people then not only will it make a massive difference to the lives and future prospects of many young people, but it will of course also have a lasting impact on society and our economy. For example, in 2011, the economic loss due to unemployment among young people was €153 billion.

Part of the problem over recent years has been very low levels of investment, which has dropped by 15% from its peak in 2007, and is currently not high enough to tackle youth unemployment. The Investment Plan should help. Funds, however, must be carefully targeted and member states need to be fully behind the Plan and give the resources necessary in order to ensure that young people are not once again disproportionately hit when times get tough, as was illustrated in our 2014 report Youth in the Crisis.

What is currently uncertain is where the funding, beyond the €21 billion put up by the EU, will come from. We are concerned that in the political bickering during the ongoing process of agreeing the funding for the Investment Plan, vital schemes for Europe’s young people, such as Erasmus+, may be jeopardised. The axe must not fall on programmes, which have a huge benefit to young people and to society, and that have proven to be effective in supporting a European mindset.

The hearing today (Monday 20 April) in the European Parliament’s Committees on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Budgets is the next hurdle for the Investment Plan in the legislative process and we urge MEPs and then member states to ensure that the Investment Plan does not end up giving with one hand, whilst taking away with another.

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