The current social and economic crisis is having a particularly negative impact on the working, living and educational conditions of young Europeans who find themselves faced with extraordinary difficulties when establishing themselves on the labour market. The European Commission is addressing these problems in the ‘Youth Opportunities Initiative’ from December 2011. The Danish EU Presidency wishes to elaborate on the initiative by drawing special attention to three key elements essential for the European youth:
- Access to the Labour Market
- Developing Skills and Maintaining Readiness
- Social Inclusion
Access to the Labour Market
The decrease in permanent jobs during the crisis has affected young people disproportionately hard. The current youth unemployment rate amounts to 21.6 pct. within the EU27 and is twice as high as the unemployment rate for the entire EU27 population throughout the past decade. This implies that one in five young people on the labour market are unable to find a job. In certain Member States close to every second young person face this problem.
The significantly high youth unemployment rate reflects the difficulties faced by young people in gaining a proper and permanent foothold on the labour market. In the short run, it leads to a risk of young people being over-represented in temporary jobs and excluded from developing their skills through permanent employment. The long-run consequence is a significant labour supply and demand mismatch, which will have severe consequences when the demographic challenges increase the demand for skilled and experienced employees.
These disadvantaged employment conditions of the European youth call for a special effort. Structural challenges need to be addressed in Member States along with efforts that help young people get access to the labour market and permanent positions. On-the-job-training is an important aspect of skills development and staying on the labour market. However, the solution to the problem lies not only in structural reforms – but also in enhancing labour market mobility for young people. Both the young Europeans and society at large will benefit from investment in young people, since it will contribute to the sustainability of Europe's future.
Developing Skills and Maintaining Readiness
Between now and 2020, there will be 73 million job openings due to retirement of the baby-boomer generation. These positions will need to be filled with qualified new staff. However, the current development leads to future labour market mismatches caused by a lack of experience and education. Young people who are unable to obtain permanent positions are at risk of drifting away from the labour market and society as a whole because of crisis-related unemployment. This goes for both skilled and non-skilled labour, both risking long-time unemployment putting them at risk of marginalization.
These young people need to be integrated into the labour market. The social partners and the private actors have an essential role in assisting these young persons in gaining a permanent foothold on the labour market. A decisive element in this process is to address the skills supply and demand mismatch, which is in the interest of both the job seeking youth and the employers. The skills of the young skilled labour need to be matched better with the demand and the non-skilled workers need support to find their way into employment, either through the ordinary educational system of vocational training or similar measures.
The current disproportionately high youth unemployment rate challenge social inclusion in Europe. Youth who are neither in employment nor in education or training (the NEET generation) are at high risk of marginalisation and exclusion from the labour market.
Furthermore, vulnerable young Europeans with great difficulties entering mainstream pathways are further challenged on the way to employment in these crisis times, as employment is not just a matter of education and skills. These young people have various social disadvantages and physical and mental disabilities requiring special support to enter employment and avoid social exclusion.
It is instrumental for an inclusive society to ensure better conditions for people in vulnerable situations. Unemployment constitutes a vulnerable situation and it is therefore even more essential to combat marginalization and undignified living conditions in this time of crisis. Therefore, all available hands must be included, both as part of our social responsibility and from an economical point of view. In this context, there is a need for a focused effort preventing high drop-out rates from education and work. Such an effort must facilitate the right conditions necessary to maintain equal opportunities for the youth in the educational system and on the labour market.
Simone Heinecke, Ministry of Employment
Tel: +45 72 20 50 85, email: firstname.lastname@example.org