ILO: Youth unemployment to remain high until 2016

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One out of five young Europeans are looking for work and the unemployment figures are not likely to improve until 2016, while policymakers are not doing enough to reverse the trend, said EU youth organisations.

According to latest figures released by the International Labour Organization (ILO), youth unemployment in the EU and other developed countries soared 26.5% from 2008 to 2011, the steepest increase from all the world regions ranked by the ILO.
Most of this increase occurred in 2008-2009 and resulted in historically high rates in several developed economies, the organisation pointed out, stressing that in comparison joblessness among young people decreased by 12% between 1998 and 2008.
The numbers seem to prove the assumption made by some economists and politicians, like Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, that today’s youth generation in the EU will be, for the first time since the second world war, worse off than their parents’ generation.
The report underscores that developed economies and the European Union have been hit hardest by the global economic crisis and its aftermath. At the same time, little progress has been made in rolling back the impact of the crisis. The projection of 18% unemployment in 2012 is in part reflecting the weak recovery in many countries of the region.
The European Commission yesterday (21 May) launched an initiative to help young people to access the job market. The pilot project, dubbed Your first EURES job, aims to help young people find a job in another EU country and is a part of the Employment Package – the EU executive’s proposal to boost employment in the EU.
But the European Youth Forum, a platform of national youth councils and non-governmental youth organisations in Europe, claims that all the actions must be more broad-based.
“The unprecedentedly high youth unemployment rates require policies that should not target and reach only first job seekers or recent school-leavers and graduates, but all NEET young people,” president of the European Youth Forum, Peter Matjaši?, told EURACTIV in an interview. NEET stands for Not in Education, Employment or Training.
Matjaši? claimed that the Employment Package takes stock of the implementation of the Youth Opportunities Initiative, but it hardly shows any new commitments or progress.
“It rather just outlines already existing initiatives and repeats already taken efforts. The European Commission … does not report any serious commitment on the side of the member states to address the youth employment crisis,” Matjaši? added.
The latest Eurostat figures showed the highest youth unemployment rates in the EU were in Spain (50.5%) and Greece (50.4%). In Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovakia, youth unemployment exceeded 30%.
Around the world, the ILO reports that nearly 75 million, or 12.6% of young people, were unemployed in 2011. This means an increase of more than 4 million since 2007. The ILO report predicts that the global youth unemployment rate will grow this year to 12.7% and that by 2016 is projected to remain the same.
The EU and other developed countries may see a slight decrease in youth unemployment – from 18% in 2012 to 16% in 2016, but the ILO claims that pre-crisis levels are not likely to be reached even by 2016.

European Youth Forum President Peter Matjaši?, said the EU should tackle two issues: first avoid further deterioration of youth labour market: "All new internship and apprenticeship opportunities should be coupled with efforts to improve their quality. For this reason we are promoting a European Charter for Quality Internships and Apprenticeships that would enforce quality standards for all young people in Europe," he said.

He added that tackling high youth unemployment requires policies that should not target and reach only first job seekers or recent school-leavers and graduates, but all NEET young people (NEET = Not in Education, Employment or Training).

"In this sense, we believe that a Youth Guarantee plan should include provisions to facilitate the entrance of all young people, including those in precarious jobs, in the labour market within four months."

Against a backdrop of growing unemployment, the EU has to revise once more its growth strategy. The current strategy for sustainable growth and jobs, called 'Europe 2020', came in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.

One of the strategy's flagship initiatives is called 'Youth on the Move'. Its aim is to enhance the performance and international attractiveness of Europe’s higher education by promoting student and trainee mobility in order to improve the employment of young people.

The youth plan, outlined in September 2010, was criticised as a re-branding exercise of existing EU initiatives that will largely rely on member states for implementation.

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