EU summit to warn youth guarantee laggards

youth unemployment - socialist party website.jpg

EXCLUSIVE / EU countries that have not yet submitted their national plans to introduce so-called Youth Guarantee schemes will be requested to do so without delay at an EU summit, which opens in Brussels today (19 December).

Internal European Commission documents seen by EURACTIV reveal that a majority of countries have not sent any plans and risk losing the funding for the initiative, aimed at tackling youth unemployment.

The draft conclusions of the summit, obtained by EURACTIV, call on member states that have not yet submitted their Youth Guarantee Implementation plans to do so without delay.

Under the Youth Guarantee, young people without a job will be guaranteed an offer of employment, training or further education within four months of finishing school or becoming unemployed (see background).

A €6 billion pot in the EU budget for 2014-2020 has been set aside to tackle youth employment in regions with high levels of unemployment.

One in five young Europeans is jobless. In countries such as Greece and Spain, half are unemployed.

Countries risk losing money

Only member countries that have submitted their national plans and who qualify will receive money, an EU source told EURACTIV. The deadline for submitting the plans was just before the summit, and countries that did not submit national plans would be named at the summit by the Commission, the source added.

According to the Commission, the cost of not acting under the Youth Guarantee will in fact be much higher. The European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) has estimated the current economic loss of having 7.5 million young people out of work or education or training at over €150 billion for the EU every year (1.2% of EU GDP) in terms of benefits paid out and lost output.

According to a Commission paper obtained by EURACTIV, only 11 out of the 28 members have submitted national plans. The Czech Republic and Hungary have submitted a final draft, while France, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia have submitted a first draft.

The document shows that Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and UK have not submitted their national plans within the required deadline.

However, Austria, Finland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands appear to be a special case. Austria and Finland have an excellent track record in combating youth unemployment and their experience is a source of inspiration for the EU, while Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark lead in averting youth unemployment, studies say.

But it may appear as a paradox that Greece, a country under bailout programmes,and Spain, with the highest rates of youth unemployment, and Bulgaria, the poorest country in the EU, have not made the necessary steps to receive EU funding to tackle youth unemployment.

Reportedly, the implementation of the Youth Guarantee is more complex than it appears at first sight. For many member countries, its implementation will require structural reforms. For example, public employment services must be able to ensure young people receive appropriate advice on job, education and training opportunities most relevant to their own situation.

Another area requiring structural reforms concerns vocational education and training systems, where member countries must ensure that they give young people the skills that employers are looking for. In this respect, trade unions, employers' organisations, educational establishments and public authorities have a role to play and prove their maturity. 

At today’s pre-summit meeting of the Party of European Socialists (PES), EURACTIV asked PES leader Sergei Stanishev to comment why his country, Bulgaria, was among the laggards on the Youth Guarantee, an initiative he personally promotes at EU level.

Stanishev, who is the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist party, the largest force in the governing coalition,  made a phone call to the Bulgarian minister of labour and Social Policy Hasan Ademov, who reportedly told him that Bulgaria’s national plans would be sent to the Commission before the yearend. 

Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV it was “a pity” that some EU countries didn’t have all their energy concentrated on putting the Youth Guarantee to work. He said that the Youth Guarantee did not receive as much funding as his political family had wished, but that “every euro counted” for further formation and so that young people could get the jobs that are existing.

“People will say: what do we have from Europe, if even small contributions are not given to them”, he said. 

The European Commission last December presented a proposal aimed at tackling youth unemployment across Europe.

The new package includes the so-called "Youth guarantee". It is a tool that hopes to ensure that all youth under 25 receive a quality job, internship or education offer within four months of finishing school or becoming unemployed.

Youth unemployment is on average twice as high as for the rest of the working age population in Europe. In Italy, it has risen to some 35% and in Spain and Greece, it even reaches over 50%.

The Youth Employment Package builds on the endorsement by the European Council on 29 June 2012 of both the Youth Guarantees concept and the usefulness of a quality framework for internships.

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