British government urged to implement Youth Guarantee

Young and homeless. London, 2008. [Garry Knight/Flickr]

Youth unemployment has left ‘a generation scarred’, and the House of Lords has urged the British government on Thursday (10 April) to implement the EU’s Youth Guarantee.

A new report by the House of Lords EU Committee calls on the British government to rethink the way it uses European funding. It should adopt the EU’s Youth Guarantee scheme, which requires member states to ensure that all young people find suitable work, training or further education opportunities within four months of being unemployed.

At the moment, the Tory-led governing coalition is putting funding towards existing domestic measures such as the government’s current scheme, ‘the Youth Contract’, to help unemployed people aged 18 to 24 find work.

Committee chairman Baroness O’Cathain said that the youth unemployment rate in the EU is more than double the general unemployment rate, and the UK is also experiencing the worst ever levels of youth unemployment. Although the picture is starting to improve, the damage has been done, O’Cathain said.

“Our report looked at ways in which EU funding could be better used to help get young people into work, and we believe that the government should rethink its centralised approach to spending EU money, and that instead it should tap into the expertise of local organisations. We would also encourage the UK government, and other member state governments, to use European money to establish new initiatives and learn from other countries,” the Baroness stated.

“The government thinks it knows best in this area, but we believe that not introducing a Youth Guarantee is unwise. We would urge the government to sign up to the Youth Guarantee instead of putting the money towards existing domestic initiatives,” she added.

The EU Sub-Committee that deals with employment and conducted the inquiry, heard that the Youth Contract had underperformed, and was not popular in the private sector, while the Youth Guarantee had been successful in other European countries.

The report states that five regions in the UK have unemployment levels so high that they qualify for additional EU funding.

In addition, the House of Lords says that more needs to be done to address the skills mismatch in the EU. For example, it is expected that there will be around 900,000 unfilled ICT vacancies by 2015 in the EU, while at the same time the number of ICT graduates across Europe is falling.

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.

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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