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European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Statement on Youth Employment
European Parliament plenary session
Strasbourg, 16 July 2014
In his inaugural address two weeks ago in Strasbourg, the President of the European Parliament outlined to this Assembly what he sees as the major challenges facing Europe.
The first one he mentioned was "the shocking level of youth unemployment (…) which is a source of desperation and hopelessness that constitutes a threat to our democracy".
Those are very strong words. As we all know, they are perfectly warranted.
Mainly, but not exclusively, the countries and regions of the Eurozone periphery have been affected by a dramatic rise of youth unemployment in the recent years.
The Commission has been adamant on keeping youth unemployment on the top of the EU agenda and launched an unprecedented range of measures combining policy and financial support.
I would like to thank the European Parliament for its support both in terms of bringing about the Youth Guarantee and ensuring adequate resources from the EU budget.
Under the Youth Guarantee, all Member States have committed themselves to ensuring that all young people under 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. The Youth Guarantee is a major structural reform as well as a key social investment.
In order to support the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, the Commission launched a European Alliance for Apprenticeships and put forward a Quality Framework for Traineeships.
All 28 Member States have now submitted Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans as requested by the European Council.
I welcome the efforts made by the Member States to put in place the Youth Guarantee schemes. I recognise that this is not an easy task as this requires strategic reforms.
The Commission has assessed the national Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans as part of the 2014 European Semester. The analysis shows that progress has been made across the board. However, there are a number of challenges, including strengthening the capacity of the public employment services, providing quality offers, reforming education and training systems, and reaching out to inactive young people.
Altogether 18 Member States received Country-Specific Recommendations focussing on one or several of these points I have just mentioned. A total of 8 Member States were invited to act more decisively to implement the Youth Guarantee.
Making the Youth Guarantee happen requires that all available resources are there to get started as quickly as possible and achieve concrete results already in the short term.
The European Social Fund, with more than €10 billion every year in the 2014-2020 period, is the most significant resource of funding to implement the Youth Guarantee.
In addition, the European Council agreed to launch a Youth Employment Initiative targeting young people aged between 15 and 24, not in employment, education or training, the so-called NEETs, who live in the regions most affected by youth unemployment.
This is a dedicated financial tool – worth 6.4 billion € - which directly targets individuals and supports the implementation of the Youth Guarantee schemes. The initiative should focus on job-creating measures, including well-targeted wage subsidies and recruitment subsidies, apprenticeships and traineeships. It can also support activation measures such as job search guidance and assistance as well as further training.
Parliament and Council agreed to frontload the Youth Employment Initiative resources so the 6.4 billion are committed in 2014 and 2015 rather than over the entire period between 2014 and 2020. They also agreed to allow Member States to claim related expenditure from 1 September 2013.
This means that the Commission can reimburse the Member States once the relevant operational programmes are adopted. In addition, when a Member State chooses to programme the Youth Employment Initiative under a dedicated Operational Programme, the Commission can approve it before the adoption of the Partnership Agreement, thereby speeding up implementation.
Where do we stand now?
France and Italy have presented such dedicated Operational Programmes. The Commission approved them respectively in June and July. As a result, 1.5 billion – or a quarter of the total allocation - have already been committed.
In addition, 11 out of the 20 eligible Member States have officially submitted Operational Programmes covering the Youth Employment Initiative-related actions. 7 Member States have not yet done so.
Last Friday, the Commission organised a seminar to support Member States in accelerating the programming and practical implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative.
On this occasion, the Commission clarified outstanding issues regarding the programming of the Youth Employment Initiative and had bilateral technical meetings with the Member States. Following the seminar, I am sending a letter to Ministers encouraging them to ensure swift completion of the Youth Employment Initiative programming.
The Youth Employment Initiative together with the Youth Guarantee should be a reality on the ground as a matter of urgency. We cannot afford to delay the implementation of such a crucial initiative. The Commission encourages Member States to continue their efforts to ensure swift implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative. The Commission will continue to assist them in this endeavour.
And at the same time, we also have to continue developing the macroeconomic framework in order to ensure that fiscal and monetary policies become more supportive for growth and job creation in all countries and all regions of the European Union.