Friday 10. July 2020
#146 - February 2012


Opportunities for young people!


More than 20% of job seekers under 25 in the EU are unable to find a job. For this reason, youth unemployment is twice that for the total work force in the EU. 7.5 million young people aged 15 – 24 are neither employed nor following study courses or professional training. As 2011 came to a close, the European Commission released these shocking figures and EU Commissioner László Andor warned of the danger of a ‘lost generation’.


In some Member States, youth unemployment is even higher than 40%, with the quota of those dropping out of school in the EU (over 14%) still too high. Women, young people with disabilities or with migration in their personal background remain the groups that are most at risk. Moreover, the financial impact on society of long-term unemployment amongst young people failing to find work is also highlighted (at least €2 billion per week according to a study by Eurofound (2011)). As was the case in the key initiative as part of the EU 2020 Strategy entitled ‘Youth on the Move’, the Commission is also tackling the issue of fixed-term contracts. While it is true that fixed-term employment contracts could serve as a springboard for those embarking on their work careers, it seems that in those Member States where the number of fixed-term contracts is higher it is correspondingly harder to obtain an open-ended contract.  The Commission is right to point out the danger of segmenting the labour market.


Young people need hope

Immediate measures are required. Young people need expectations of hope. The Commission agrees and predicts that 73 million new jobs will be created between now and 2020. This requires personnel with qualifications. However, recently there has been a growing discrepancy between supply and demand on the labour market. The roots of the problem turn out to be applicants not having the right qualifications, lack of geographical mobility and inadequate wages.


The Commission hopes it will find a way out of these doldrums with its new ‘Youth Opportunities Initiative’. When it comes to fighting youth unemployment, the main responsibility lies with the Member States. However, the EU could become involved by lending its support. In the Commission’s view, this should entail firstly, monitoring national measures and success stories on an annual basis via the European Semester for Economic Policy Coordination and, secondly, providing financial aid for national and cross-border measures in accordance with agreed priorities. This is why it is calling on the Member States to take decisive action in four areas: ‘Preventing early school-leaving’, ‘Developing skills that are relevant to the labour market’, ‘Supporting a first work experience and on-the-job training’ and ‘Access to the labour market: getting a (first) job’. In addition to this, better use is to be made of EU financial aid and EU instruments. Key measures include the freeing up of €4 million for the introduction of the ‘Youth Guarantee System’, designed to ensure that young people get either a job or a place on a vocational training/further training course within four months of leaving school. €1.3 million from the European Social Fund is to go into creating apprenticeships. On the promotion of mobility, it is focusing on developing its ‘success-story programme’ Erasmus, which also exists for young entrepreneurs. In addition to this, young people should be able to develop their skills in the European Voluntary Service, buttressed by the EU ‘Youth in Action’ programme . Above and beyond this, a new European voluntary corps for humanitarian aid has been announced.


The need to be open to changing job profiles

However, one fact is not mentioned at all in the Commission’s analysis, perhaps because it ought to be obvious to everybody: employment CVs are changing! While previous generations could often look back over 40 years working in the same company, these days many young people claw their way from one fixed-term employment contract to another. Nowadays, flexibility is the rule and being prepared to work anywhere in the EU. But have these changing circumstances actually permeated the collective consciousness of all human resources departments? Can we deny that a worker who has gone from one short-term job to another - possibly living in different cities, regions or even countries - may give the impression of being ‘unstable’? Fixed-term contracts, which often go hand in hand with interim periods of unemployment, take their toll on the individual as well as his/her family. Such a status quo can frequently lead to a sense of restlessness with the endless search for jobs, moving to a new area and, last but not least, getting used to a new social environment, along with fears for the future. Yes, it is true that young people need opportunities – but they also need to know where they are going in life!


Anna Echterhoff


Translated from the Original German

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