‘Resilience strategies’ help vulnerable youth out of unemployment

Youth unemployment

Many young unemployed people have mental health problems. [Francisco Osorio/Flickr]

This article is part of our special report Youth unemployment.

SPECIAL REPORT / While it can be tough being unemployed, putting individuals at risk of poverty, the situation can be even worse for vulnerable youngsters who can sink into depression and homelessness.

Some researchers have developed ‘resilience tools’ for jobless young people who are considered vulnerable because they cannot count on others for support.

The new approach takes into consideration all aspects of a young person’s life in order to pull them out of unemployment.

Research has shown that youth unemployment is significantly associated with mental health difficulties. 40% of jobless young people report symptoms of declining mental health, including feeling of self-hatred, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks.

The new approach is aimed at disadvantaged young people – those who come from families of low aspirations, those who live in poverty or who are in foster care. For them, the likelihood of unemployment and time out of training and education is usually much greater. For example, young carers are twice as likely as their peers to be out of work for over six months.

An interactive toolkit is now available which young people and professionals can use to promote resilience. The toolkit was developed by fifteen young people from Greece and the UK as part of the STYLE project – Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour in Europe.

Socially isolated

“Resilience strategies,” the researchers explain, are mechanisms that enable people get through tough moments in life. Such mechanisms include the personal environment, such as family and peers, or social services which can support the resilience process.

If young people are able to better understand the dynamics of resilience, they have a better chance of reaching a more favourable outcome when the going gets tough, it is claimed.

Vulnerable young people often feel excluded and marginalised, said Professor Angie Hart from the University of Brighton, who helped develop the toolkit. They are often de-motivated to find work and can be overwhelmed by simple barriers such as finding money to buy suitable clothes for job interviews. They also often worry about personal debt and whether they will ever become homeowners later in life, she explained.

“Through their work, the young people shared stories and role models that had been significant in supporting their own resilience, such as Malcolm X, and such stories are illustrated for the benefit of other young people,” the researchers write in a study called Aspirations of vulnerable young people in foster care.

“The resource details the young people’s pathways through foster care and the resilient moves that have been important in their lives in overcoming barriers to success,” they add. Those following the programme learn to develop resilience mechanisms, including a sense of belonging, learning, coping, and interpersonal skills.

In recent years, Greece witnessed devastating youth unemployment rates.

The latest data published by Eurostat from May 2015, showed that currently 51.8% of young people in Greece are unemployed, presenting huge societal and economic challenges for the country now and in the future.

Meanwhile, during the same month, the UK had the fourth lowest youth unemployment rate in the 28 EU member states, at 5.6%.

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. 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. 

Greece, Spain and Italy will receive the biggest share of the YEI, €3.4 billion.

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