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Youth employment: opportunities

There are currently more than five million unemployed young people in the European Union (EU), which means that one in five young people on the labour market cannot find a job. This Communication proposes ways to offer young people appropriate training which will enable them to have better professional opportunities.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 20 December 2011 - Youth Opportunities Initiative [COM(2011) 933 final — Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication presents the current situation regarding youth employment in the European Union (EU) and proposes solutions for tackling the high levels of unemployment in this age category.

Current situation of youth employment

It is becoming harder for young people to find work in a context of rising unemployment. In some EU countries, the rate of youth unemployment may reach 40 %. This Communication notes that a total of 7.5 million people in the 15-24 age group are neither in employment nor in education or training.

Although unemployment is high, many posts remain vacant. This situation points to labour market mismatches in the EU. Between now and 2020, there will be 73 million job openings due to retirement of workers, which should be filled by young people with the necessary skills.

The European Commission has identified several factors in youth unemployment:

  • early school leaving without qualifications;
  • lack of relevant skills and lack of work experience;
  • precarious employment followed by spells of unemployment;
  • limited training opportunities;
  • insufficient/inappropriate active labour market programmes.

Faced with this problem, the Commission proposes to examine national policies and performances. It also plans to provide financial support to national and cross-border actions.

Objectives for fostering youth employment

For the year 2012, the Commission encourages Member States to concentrate on the following objectives:

  • Preventing early school leaving: the 2020 Strategy aims to reduce early school leaving from 14 % to 10 %. One of the tools proposed for achieving this objective is the Council Recommendation of 28 June 2011 concerning policies for reducing early school leaving. The Recommendation advocates measures which combine prevention, intervention and compensation.
  • Developing skills that are relevant to the labour market: young people should acquire the skills required by the world of work as part of their studies. With regard to budget, Member States are requested to plan efficient expenditure for education and vocational training. The Agenda for new skills and jobs proposes in particular a European Skills, Competences and Occupations classification to bring the worlds of education and employment closer together. Furthermore, the Digital Agenda should enable young people’s ICT skills to be improved.
  • Supporting a first work experience and on-the-job training: the Commission believes that apprenticeships and good quality placements in enterprises need to be developed in order to enable young people to acquire skills and experience. Social partners must help young people to target their skills better in their job searches.
  • Getting a first job: the Commission wants to improve young people’s access to the labour market. To this end, Member States are requested to reform employment protection legislation in consultation with social partners. In addition, the Commission wants to encourage self-employment of young people so that they create their own companies.

Actions to be taken to encourage an active youth population

In order to improve young people’s access to employment, the Commission suggests several courses of action:

  • Using the European Social Fund: a portion of the structural funds (European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF)) representing EUR 79 billion should be allocated to education and employment measures. However, new approaches need to be developed in order to support participation of young people in apprenticeship/traineeship programmes.
  • Improving the transition from school to work: it is crucial that the link between education and vocational training is improved through dual/twin-track learning and apprenticeships. Some projects already exist through the 'Leonardo da Vinci' programme; however, this Communication specifies that businesses must make a stronger commitment in this area. The Commission plans to present a framework in 2012 aimed at encouraging the provision and take-up of high quality traineeships, as well as a preparatory action for 'Activation measures targeting young people'.
  • Supporting the mobility of young people in the labour market: the Commission wants to take inspiration from the success of the 'Erasmus' programme to encourage more mobility and efficiency in the labour market. To this end, a preparatory action ('Your first EURES job') already exists, which aims to support young people and employers through transnational recruitment and job placements. The Commission also aims to strengthen the European Voluntary Service during the last two years of the 'Youth in action' programme. A new European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps will be set up.
Last updated: 22.02.2012
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