EU urged to strengthen youth guarantee scheme

The Commission has been told to invest much more money and give schemes like the Youth Guarantee more time to take effect. [Shutterstock]

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.

The European Commission’s Youth Guarantee initiative was first endorsed by the member states back in 2013, but three years later youth unemployment across the EU remains at 19%. In Greece, it stands at 50.3% and in Spain it is 43.9%.

The programme is intended to provide guidance towards a job or further training within four months of a young person leaving education or already being unemployed. But, Tom Vrijens, president of European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Youth, said that its results have been “disappointing” so far.

Auditors unaware if “Youth Guarantee” has provided a single job yet

Officials from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) responsible for screening the flagship Youth Guarantee initiative have admitted that they have yet to see a single young person who has found a job through it.

Despite some progress, the proportion of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) has hardly changed since the initiative started. Many young people are also being directed towards precarious and low-paid jobs, leading the ETUC to suggest that the Commission and member states better define the criteria for jobs and training.

However, despite the criticisms, it is generally acknowledged that there is no “magic formula” when it comes to finding young people work, especially in the current climate. That is why the EU has been told to up the ante, rather than scrapping the project.

ETUC Confederal Secretary Thiébaut Weber said that fighting unemployment requires time, “the Youth Guarantee does too”.

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In the European Parliament, socialist MEPs Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) and Pervenche Berès (France) took up the task of saving the Youth Guarantee scheme from a slow decline into irrelevance.

In a joint letter to Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and outgoing Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, they implored the EU executive to bump up the programme’s funding.

They also poured cold water on the Commission’s budget proposal, criticising the executive’s proposed €2 billion funding for the scheme up to 2020. The ETUC echoed this appraisal, claiming that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has already estimated that funding in the region of €21 billion per year would be needed to get the job done. Schmit and Berès also agreed that €20 billion is needed.

Both pointed out that the Commission has nothing but good things to say about the Youth Guarantee, previously labelling it a “powerful policy driver for reform”, as well as claiming that in three years it has already “provided 9 million young people with an offer of employment, apprenticeship, traineeship, or lifelong learning”. 

There are numerous success stories that the Youth Guarantee is responsible for, including 83.5% of young job seekers in Finland receiving a job offer within three months of registering for the scheme in 2015. But as Weber pointed out, “it cannot solve youth employment by itself”.

Further improvements suggested to the scheme include involving civil society, trade unions and the young people themselves in running and monitoring the programme.

In December 2012, the European Commission presented a proposal aimed at tackling youth unemployment across Europe.

The package included the so-called "Youth Guarantee", a tool that seeks to ensure that all youth under 25 receive a quality job, internship or education offer within four months of finishing school or becoming unemployed.

Over 5 million young people (under 25) were unemployed in the EU-28 area in the second quarter of 2014.

The EU countries with the highest rate of youth unemployment are Spain (53.8% in July 2014), Greece (53.1% in May 2014), Italy (42.9%), Croatia (41.5%), Portugal (35.5%) and Cyprus (35.1% in June 2014).

For more background, read our LinksDossier below:

Fighting youth unemployment: an EU priority

Between 2007 and 2013, youth unemployment reached record highs across Europe, dramatically increasing from 15.7% to 23.4%, according to Eurostat. EU heads of state and government agreed in February 2013 to launch a €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) to get more young people into work. 

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