SPECPOL Committee Briefing

The question of youth unemployment in Europe

The youth unemployment rate is the number of unemployed 15-24 year-olds expressed as a percentage of the youth labour force. Unemployed people are those who report that they are without work, that they are available for work and that they have taken active steps to find work in the last four weeks.

Within Europe there is a huge divide over the rate of youth unemployment, both within the European Union and Europe as whole. Spain has a youth unemployment rate of 39% where as Germany’s is only 6%.

The preamble of the UN Charter states that one of the aims of the organisation is “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Youth unemployment affects the accomplishment of this goal and thus is an issue that the UN must try to tackle. In 2015 member states adopted 17 sustainable development goals which are aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all over the next 15 years. In order for countries to fulfil the 1st goal, ending poverty, employment as whole must rise and high youth employment will allow this goal to be maintained.

There are several initiatives both worldwide and Europe focused being implemented. However, due to the advanced nature of most European economies many initiatives that work elsewhere cannot be applied directly to Europe since different skills are required. This year Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein launched the “Fund for Youth Employment” as they felt there was a risk of “a generation being lost”. The fund has €60 million to finance pilot projects that help young people find employment and help transfer measures that work in one country to others. Funding has also been set aside for research into why some measures work better than others. This fund aims to build on top of what the EU already supplies through its Youth Guarantee. The EU Youth Guarantee is a commitment by all Member States to ensures that all people under the age of 25 receive good quality employment, continued education, apprenticeship, traineeship within 4 months of becoming unemployed or leaving education. The Youth Employment Initiative works towards the implementation of these goals. It provides financial support to young people in regions where youth unemployment is higher than 25%. It works in coordination with the European Social Fund to reform employment, education and training institutions and services. The International Labour Organisation has also launched the “Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth” which is a partnership between governments, UN institutions, businesses and other groups to scale-up action in order to create new avenues for quality employment in the global economy.

Aside from the issue of creating employment these initiatives also face the issue of creating quality employment. A third of people in the EU under the age of 30 who are in employment are in temporary jobs. This is a major issue because in the long term this is not sustainable and thus Europe as a whole must find a new way to create opportunities for youth so that they are able to start a career and not waste time hopping from one job to another.

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