EU summit on youth employment
More opportunities for young people
Meeting in Milan, the EU’s heads of state and government have been discussing programmes to tackle youth unemployment. They all agreed that it must become easier to access available funds. The first priority must be to ensure that the available funds are in fact used, said Angela Merkel.
"At the moment it is not a question of there not being enough money. The money that is available must first actually be used," stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel after the summit meeting in Milan.
It is, however, also very important to know where to invest, said Angela Merkel. "We must identify the jobs of the future." She sees opportunities for young people throughout the digital sector, for instance, continued the Chancellor. She pointed to the German government’s mobility programme which provides for unemployed young people, especially from southern European countries, to come and train in Germany; the programme is to run until 2018.
Alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy attended the summit in Milan. The two sides of industry were also represented.
Earlier, the heads of the national public-sector employment authorities met with labour ministers in a session chaired by the Chairman of the German Federal Employment Agency Frank-Jürgen Weise. The European Investment Bank also reported on its activities.
Initiative of the Chancellor
Promoting youth employment is a matter close to the heart of the Chancellor. At the Berlin conference initiated by the Chancellor in summer 2013 and the follow-up meeting in Paris the responsible ministers, heads of state and government and EU representatives agreed on a large number of measures and on the provision of funding.
The European Commission has earmarked a sum of six billion euros to fight youth unemployment in the European Union. Additional funding running into billions have been made available to the member states by the European Social Fund and the European Investment Bank.
Swift reforms needed
Unemployment figures have dropped over the last year, slightly at least.
According to Eurostat’s figures, unemployment in the EU in August 2014 stood at 11.5 per cent. Youth unemployment for the same period was almost twice as high at 21.6 per cent. The first signs of improvement can be seen, however. In June 2013 youth employment still stood at 23.5 per cent. The lowest rates in August 2014 were recorded in Germany (7.6 per cent), Austria (8.2 per cent) and the Netherlands (10.1 per cent). The highest rates were recorded in Spain (53.7 per cent), Greece (51.5 in June 2014), Italy (44.2 per cent) and Croatia (43.9 per cent in the second quarter of 2014).
Now it is important to ensure that the available funds swiftly reach the affected groups, and that the necessary structural reforms in EU member states are initiated. The European Commission called on affected states to produce "operational programmes", which will now be reviewed and authorised without delay by the Commission.
In Milan discussions focused first on the implementation status of the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee. Other points on the agenda included mobility on the European labour market and the labour markets in the respective countries. Participants also looked at the future viability of these labour markets.
An overview of measures to tackle youth unemployment
Youth Guarantee: Young people under the age of 25 in all EU states are to be assured either a job suited to their education, skills and experience or the opportunity to acquire the education, skills and experience required to find a job through an apprenticeship, a traineeship or continued education with four months of completing school or losing a job. European Social Fund funding of up to ten billion euros is available to this end. A total of 18 pilot projects have already been launched in seven member states to implement the Youth Guarantee. In Vilnius, Lithuania, for instance, young people are being given the chance to undertake a two-week "employment test" with local private-sector businesses. Twelve months after the pilot project was launched, 25 per cent of participants had been offered a proper job by the businesses.
Youth Employment Initiative: The Youth Employment Initiative addresses young people under the age of 25 who are not in employment nor undertaking training. They should also live in parts of the EU suffering youth employment rates of over 25 per cent. This embraces 20 member states at present. Six billion euros are available to fund the Initiative. Member states must produce operational programmes that must then be approved by the European Commission before they can access funding. All affected states have now submitted an operational programme. The programmes of France, Italy and Lithuania have already been approved. All others are to be reviewed by the end of the year.
France, for instance, is receiving 432 million euros, which it is using to finance projects to advise and retrain young people with particularly poor qualifications, as well as fostering mobility among trainees.
- European Investment Bank (EIB) "Investing in Skills" and "Jobs For Youth" programmes: The EIB programmes aim to improve the qualifications of Europeans under the age of 25 through vocational training and student loans. The "Jobs For Youth" Initiative also aims to create jobs for young people. The EIB will extend loans to small and medium enterprises (SME) employing young people. The original six billion euros earmarked have now been topped up to more than nine billion euros.