Youth Guarantee: just a part of the solution

Employment and Social Affairs

Youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges the EU has to cope with today. Young Europeans can often find themselves as victims of prejudice and discrimination on the labour market. Despite being more educated than previous generations, young people face several hurdles in accessing the labour market.

Currently, the EU experiences a significant unemployment rate gap between its Members States. Solely the economically strong countries, like Germany and Austria, have managed to control their level of youth unemployment rate under 10%, despite the financial crisis. While the prevalence of temporary work has reduced the levels of youth unemployment in certain European countries, this temporary solution is not conducive to the wellbeing of employees and their working rights.

For example the so called “mini-job”, introduced in Germany in 2003 under the social democratic chancellor Gerhard Schröder, has been praised for its alleged role in preventing a high increase in German unemployment post-2008.  A “mini job” is a low-paid contract with a maximum of 15 hours per week with a salary of 450 euros per month, which is very popular in Germany, thanks to the employee’s exoneration from taxes, thus politicians often rely on it to improve employment statistics. Although, “mini jobs” do not offer qualified workers prospects for career advancement, for the unemployed they represent an opportunity to enter the labour market once again. Albeit accepting precarious conditions, this approach seems to be a realistic and effective solution.

Nevertheless, these temporary jobs are not suitable to address the demand of many highly-skilled young people for whom it is not easy to enter the labour market and acquire stable working conditions. This is a bottleneck affecting Italy as other EU member State.

Despite Youth Guarantee program, the EU’s response to tackle youth unemployment seems not to be decisive enough to solve this issue. Currently a dedicated budget, worth 3.2 billion euros, has been set aside for the Youth European Initiative. In addition, the European Social Funds will allocate 3.2 billion euros to the Member States for the 2014-2020 programming period. However, without a strategic plan to deal with this situation, these funds will be practically useless.

Unemployed Youth

Photo credits: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

A relevant shortcoming is related to the fact that once a young NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) is enrolled in the Youth Guarantee program, he is considered easily placeable in the labour market, even while he is completing his studies or holds a degree. This approach sounds unrealistic because, at least in some EU Member States, it is not true that youth who holds a degree can easily access the labour market.

This bottleneck highlights one of the crucial aspects to be fixed for the future: the real need is to match Universities and the labour market request.

In order to adopt a sustainable solution, the EU needs to increase the interaction between the educational and the business spheres. A major concern for businesses is the mismatch between educational system and the skills required by employers. As a matter of fact, 81% of  CEOs state that, when hiring, they seek a broad range of expertises, which are not usually provided by the educational system.

The problem has been highlighted for example by Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA-YE Europe,one of  Europe’s largest provider of entrepreneurship education programs, in an interview:regrettably for today’s young people, the European Youth Guarantee scheme is an example of the EU throwing money at a problem to ease a symptom, rather than curing the cause”.  As Mrs Jenner argues, we should not be surprised by the fact that young people can’t find jobs, as they are being trained by an “old style education system”.

This appears to be the core problem affecting many European countries. As a result, another key priority for the EU, in order to provide an effective long-term approach to solve youth unemployment, is to help the education system in enhancing the capacity to match supply and demand in the labour market.

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