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Brussels, 20 December 2011

Press statement by László Andor on the Youth Opportunities Initiative


In response to the serious - and in many countries worsening - situation of young people today, I am pleased to present to you our proposal for a new Youth Opportunities Initiative.

This sets out very immediate and concrete measures for next year. It aims to help young job-seekers who have left school to find work quickly or find their way back to school, or into vocational training that fits with the labour market's needs.

We also want to help young people with a third level education to be able to get a first work experience.

Why is the situation so pressing?

The price for persistent youth unemployment and more and more youngsters neither in school nor employment is too high.

Today, one in five young people looking for work cannot find a job. In some countries, the number of young people registered as jobseekers is nearly 50%.

Seven and a half million young people between 15 and 24 are neither employed nor in education or training.

And these are not only low-skilled young people having left school too early, but also more and more university graduates who cannot find a first job.

The prolonged effect of the crisis increases these numbers every day. And some youngsters are leaving Europe to find work in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and Angola. This trend cannot continue.

Not only do we risk losing a whole generation, but there is a financial cost too.

According to a recent Eurofound study, the burden on society of current youth unemployment levels is about €2bn each week, or just over 1% of EU-27 GDP.

That's why we are calling for urgent action at EU level, but also at national and local levels.

We need a strong partnership between the Commission and the Member States, but also between the Member States and the Social Partners.

Businesses and employers' organisations are the ones best placed to help offer quality apprenticeships and traineeship places that can equip young people with the skills needed to enter the labour market.

Having the right skills will be especially important. Between now and 2020 there will be 73m job vacancies as the baby boomers take retirement.

What will the Commission do?

The Commission will support Member States' efforts by providing policy guidance and financing.

In terms of immediate action, we expect Member States to address youth employment in their 2012 National Reform Programmes under the Europe 2020 strategy.

The Commission will also systematically address youth policies and measures in the 2012 Country Specific Recommendations.

Financing through ESF:

For financing, we will urge and help Member States to make better use of EU funds - especially the European Social Fund.

€30bn of ESF is still not committed to projects and can help Member States to create larger scale support schemes for young people.

In addition, and to help member States actually use the funds, we will provide €1.3m of technical support through the ESF to increase the number of apprenticeships schemes.

And we will assist Member States in promoting youth entrepreneurship and self-employment also by using the ESF Technical Assistance.

EU direct measures:

More generally, the Commission will launch direct measures too. These will support school-to-work transitions and youth mobility:

We will provide, with the European Parliament, €4m assistance for Member States to start Youth guarantee schemes ensuring that young people are in employment, education or training within four months of leaving school.

In 2012 we will present a framework for high quality traineeships, including an EU panorama on traineeships which will make conditions for trainees throughout the EU more transparent.

We will try to gear funds from the ERASMUS and Leonardo da Vinci programmes towards placements in enterprises. This should support at least 130,000 placements in 2012;

We will also ensure around 600 further exchanges under Erasmus for entrepreneurs in 2012;

To promote the mobility of young workers we will see the targeted job mobility scheme to help young people find a job in another EU Member State get off the ground. "Your first Eures Job" will help 5,000 young people find a work placement in another Member State in 2012 and 2013.

Finally, we will reinforce the budget allocation for the European Voluntary Service, to provide at least 10,000 volunteering opportunities in 2012.

All these Commission actions will pave the way for further measures that Member States can develop under the next EU Budget period 2014-2020.


But most important of all is to take action immediately through a partnership approach.

We will only make a difference if, at all levels and between the EU institutions, the social partners and national governments, we redouble our efforts to improve the situation for our younger generation.

The message must be clear: young people must not give up. We care about their future, it is our future too.

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