Youth Guarantee ‘an unprecedented opportunity’ to improve lives for young people

Peter Matjaši?

Peter Matjaši? (Photo provided by the European Youth Forum)

The Youth Guarantee can help unemployed, young people who are trapped in a poverty cycle, but in order to be fully successful, there needs to be a coherent and comprehensive approach to tackle youth unemployment in the EU, says Peter Matjaši?.

Peter Matjaši? is the president of the European Youth Forum, a platform of European non-governmental youth organisations. He answered questions by EURACTIV’s Henriette Jacobsen.

The Youth Guarantee was introduced a year ago and you are already calling for an evaluation. Why?

We have already seen a general lack of ambition when it comes to the implementation of the Youth Guarantee in member states. We are concerned that there is not enough investment from the national level in the youth guarantee, and have seen already a tendency to repackage existing and unsuccessful measures as youth guarantee schemes – this is clearly not enough.

Furthermore, there needs to be quality assurance – the Youth Guarantee must not create poor quality jobs and poor quality training for youth as this will merely perpetuate the issue of precarious work which young people since the crisis have been increasingly forced to undertake. We are also concerned that despite the fact that the Council recommendation explicitly states that member states must consult youth organisations in the design, implementation and monitoring of the Youth Guarantee, this has not and is not happening. Youth organisations can play a crucial role in reaching out to those furthest from the labour market and ensuring that youth employment measures are effective and tailored to the needs of their beneficiaries.   

What are the biggest problems which youth unemployment is creating, for the individual and for a society as a whole?

For the individual, there’s a risk of poverty. For young people it is at a high 30%. Youth unemployment, if not adequately tackled, can risk trapping young people in the poverty cycle. Long-term unemployment has been shown to have grave psychological effects, leading to lack of confidence, depression and potentially suicide.

For society, this can eventually impede future development of Europe. Quality employment is a way of ensuring full participation of young people in society, as active European citizens – otherwise risk of disillusionment, social exclusion and a lost generation unable to contribute to society as a whole 

What is the potential of the Youth Guarantee as you see it?

It provides an unprecedented opportunity to enact progressive change in Europe that could improve the economic situation of young people. This is a great opportunity to rethink the transition from education to employment by providing tailored and personalised services, to deal with the heterogeneous nature of youth unemployment and to prevent marginalised young people from being discriminated further. The early-intervention approach, four months after young people leave formal education or are made unemployed, should also contribute to help young people not to fall into the vicious circle of unemployment. It has enormous potential and this potential must be seized to bring about real change for young people in Europe. 

The European Youth Forum critisises ‘a lack of political ambition’. What more can EU leaders do?

The lack of political ambition is illustrated by the amount of funding, which is not enough for the Youth Guarantee to be fully successful but also by the difficulty to develop a coherent and comprehensive approach to tackle youth unemployment. In some member states the Youth Guarantee has been implemented alongside measures that the National Youth Council have expressly opposed, for instance some cuts in unemployment benefits  for young people. 

To ensure coherence, we call for member states to respect the Recommendation of the European Council on the Youth Guarantee, respect the four-month delay of intervention and ensure quality offers to all young people. Young people do not think that ‘any job is a good job’. The European Youth Forum deeply regrets that EU leaders failed to agree on an ambitious quality framework for traineeships. The recommendation adopted in March 2014 will not guarantee quality internships, apprenticeships and traineeships. 

Furthermore, in many member states the scheme of the Youth Guarantee is focused on young people up to 25, but there are 6,8 million NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) between 25 and 30 years old. There should be a consensus amongst EU leaders to make the scheme available for young people up to 30. 

Some member states have been hesitating or slow when it comes to implementing the Youth Guarantee. Why do you think that is?

In some member states the delay to implement the Youth Guarantee can be explained by interesting consultation methods, including consultation of youth through the National Youth Council (e.g. Slovenia, Estonia…). However, in most EU member states this should rather be explained by a lack of political ambition to develop a new approach towards youth, to create a new scheme that requires a multi-sectoral approach, the involvement of several ministries at national level, and a real partnership approach at a more local level. It has been very difficult to include the notion of ‘Youth Guarantee’ in EU binding, legislative documents, as member states wanted to implement it in their own way. Nevertheless, the Youth Guarantee is now mentioned in the European Social Fund regulation which will help us to ask for regular monitoring. 

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