Brussels, 11 July 2014
Youth Employment Initiative: €1.1 billion of EU money to tackle youth unemployment in Italy
The European Commission has adopted today the national Operational Programme for the implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) in Italy. This is the second YEI Operational Programme adopted by the European Commission, after the first in France last month (IP/14/622), as part of the €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative for which 20 Member States (with regions with youth unemployment over 25%) are eligible.
Under this Programme, Italy will mobilise €1.5 billion from various sources, including €1.1 billion from the European budget (Youth Employment Initiative and the European Social Fund), to help young people to find a job. Italy is the second largest recipient of Youth Employment Initiative funds (over €530 million), which will be spent in almost all Italian regions under the coordination of the Ministry of Labour.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented "I warmly congratulate Italy for giving priority to tackling youth unemployment. Italy's programme implementing the Youth Employment Initiative is very ambitious: it should reach over half a million young Italians currently out of employment, education or training. This reflects the urgency of giving every young person a real chance in the labour market".
The Operational Programme will mainly contribute to implementation of the Youth Guarantee, the ambitious EU-wide reform aiming to ensure that every young person up to 25 years is presented with a quality offer of employment, education or training within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. Considering the characteristics of the Italian labour market, Italy has chosen to extend these interventions to people aged up to 29.
All beneficiaries will be offered a personalised approach through a large variety of tailored actions: information and guidance sessions; vocational training; work placements; apprenticeships, in particular for the youngest; traineeships, not only limited to the most qualified (graduates); promotion of self-employment and self-entrepreneurship; transnational and territorial professional mobility opportunities; and finally, a civil service scheme with a possibility to certify the acquisition of new skills. Ownership is also a key feature of the YEI programme since participants will be asked to sign individual agreements ("Patto di attivazione") when enrolling in a curriculum.
Italian regions are key actors for the success of this programme. In the framework of the overall strategy, they have designed specific interventions tailored to their needs and consistent with the local socio-economic context. They will benefit from the support of all key players, in particular the Public Employment Services which are in the process of revisiting their procedures to offer innovative activation measures.
In May 2014, around 5.2 million young people (under 25) were unemployed in the EU, of which 700 000 in Italy. More than one million Italians aged from 15 to 24 are currently out of employment, education or training (NEETs) and this number almost doubles for the age range 15-29.
The Commission's proposal for a Youth Guarantee was presented in December 2012 (see IP/12/1311 and MEMO/12/938), formally adopted by the EU's Council of Ministers on 22 April 2013 (see MEMO/13/152) and endorsed by the June 2013 European Council. All 28 Member States have submitted their Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans (details available here) and are putting in place concrete measures. Implementation of national Youth Guarantee schemes is monitored by the Commission within the framework of the European Semester.
The European Social Fund, providing more than €10 billion every year in the 2014-2020 period, is a key source of EU funding to implement the Youth Guarantee.
To top up the European Social Fund in Member States with regions where youth unemployment exceeds 25%, the Council and the European Parliament agreed to create a dedicated Youth Employment Initiative (YEI). YEI funding comprises €3 billion from a specific new EU budget line dedicated to youth employment (frontloaded to 2014-15) matched by at least €3 billion from Member States' European Social Fund allocations. The YEI complements the European Social Fund for implementing the Youth Guarantee by funding activities to directly help young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) aged up to 25 years, or where the Member States considers relevant, up to 29 years. The Youth Employment Initiative money can be used to support activities including first job experience, provision of traineeships and apprenticeships, further education and training, business start-up support for young entrepreneurs, second-chance programmes for early school leavers and targeted wage and recruitment subsidies. The YEI will be programmed with the European Social Fund in 2014-20.
In order to draw down Youth Employment Initiative funding as quickly as possible, Member States can make use of several special rules. Where YEI assistance is programmed through a specific Operational Programme, as in Italy, such a Programme can be adopted even before the Partnership Agreement which lays the basis for the use of all EU Structural and Investment Funds in the country in 2014-20. Moreover, the Youth Employment Initiative can reimburse expenditure incurred by Member States as of 1 September 2013, i.e. even before the Programmes have been adopted. In addition, the EU's top-up funding under the YEI does not require any national co-financing; only the ESF contribution to the YEI needs to be co-financed.
Experts from the Commission and Member States are meeting in Brussels on 11th July to accelerate the programming arrangements and practical implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative at a special seminar organised by the Commission (see IP/14/784). The aim of the seminar is to work jointly on the programming of measures financed by the Youth Employment Initiative so that all eligible Member States can start receiving the funds as soon as possible.
Now that the Operation Programmes for France and Italy have been approved more than 25% of YEI money has been committed. Other Member States including Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Poland and Sweden are also in the process of implementing projects to be financed by the Youth Employment Initiative.
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