EU states need to get grip on youth unemployment

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Allan Päll [Baltic Development Forum/Flickr]

Allan Päll [Baltic Development Forum/Flickr]

The dust may have started to settle from the European elections, but the same issues and problems for young people across Europe remain, Allan Päll writes.

Allan Päll is the Secretary General of the European Youth Forum.

Weeks after the EU elections on 22-25 May, youth unemployment continues to blight the lives of too many young people. And this seemingly intractable problem is something that European institutions and Member States have yet to get a grip on.

Back in April, the European Youth Forum criticised national governments and the European Commission for their lack of political ambition and investment when it comes to implementing the youth guarantee scheme. The youth guarantee is a scheme that should lead to young people not in education training of employment (NEETs) getting a job or training within four months of unemployment.  Unfortunately, since then, little progress has been made. The International Labour Organisation has also estimated that a budget of € 6 billion is too ineffective and that at least € 21 billion should be allocated.

But we must not forget also that it is the responsibility of Member States to put in place the guarantee as one tailor made programme within a package of youth employment measures. Member States have further committed to solving the issue through a series of youth employment meetings of heads of states in Berlin in July 2013 and in Paris in November 2013. Another meeting was scheduled to be held in Turin in July 2014, but has been cancelled, showing coordination problems of policymaking in Europe.

Conclusions at the Council and Member State level have led to little action and it is becoming clearer that a rethink of EU monetary and fiscal policies is also needed to help job creation and fight discrimination of youth in the labour market. That is especially true on a continent that is essentially an ageing one, thus depending more than ever on the youth for future welfare.

Today and tomorrow the EPSCO Council, bringing together ministers responsible for employment, social affairs, health and consumer policy from all EU Member States is taking place. The Council is discussing the country-specific recommendations drafted by the European Commission. These recommendations are very revealing when it comes to the implementation of the Youth Guarantee at a national level: in some Member States there has been a lack of progress (Estonia, Czech Republic and Cyprus are cited) and in others, (for example Ireland, France and Greece) the implementation of the scheme is not on the right track.

Drilling down into the detail, on Ireland, the Country Recommendation reiterates the importance of the jobs being offered to young people being of a good quality – something we are also pushing for. For France and Greece, their plans do not fully comply with the criteria previously outlined by the Council. We urge the European Commission to increase its pressure on these countries to ensure that the Youth Guarantee is efficiently implemented.

We at the Youth Forum welcome this monitoring by the Commission of how the youth guarantee is being implemented in 23 Member States as an important process to make sure that an effective youth guarantee becomes a reality across the EU. However, these recommendations are not enough to ensure proper monitoring of the scheme. We are finding that it is extremely difficult to follow the implementation process. Furthermore, it is very disappointing to see the lack of transparency in the Commission’s monitoring. For example, it is very difficult to access Member States’ implementation plans.

An area that we have alerted the Commission to before and which is of increasing concern to us is the fact that Member States are not involving those that will actually benefit from the youth guarantee – young people themselves – as well as youth organisations in the design and development of the youth guarantee. This was recommended in the Council recommendation of April 2013, but the Commission fails to tackle this lack of involvement in these recommendations. Up until now, we know from our member organisations across Europe, that engagement with young people has been haphazard, superficial and sometimes non-existent.

Issues that still need to be tackled at national level include the lack of active outreach to NEETs; not enough administrative capacity of Public employment service; and lack of effective coordination and engagement with all the relevant partners at regional and national level.

The European Commission and Member States must not let this opportunity to tackle the huge problem of youth unemployment slip through their fingers. We will continue to follow-up and monitor the implementation of the youth guarantee in order to see whether it is, in fact, making a difference to young people’s lives. 

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