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European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Statement on Roll-out of the Youth Employment Initiative
European Parliament plenary session
Strasbourg, 17 September 2014
I would like to thank the European Parliament for its support to the Commission's efforts in developing and implementing the Youth Guarantee. The Youth Guarantee is one of the most important and ambitious reforms proposed by this Commission.
As you know very well in this House, the Youth Guarantee is a fundamentally new approach based on the best existing models within the EU, namely in Austria and Finland.
It is a key structural reform that requires in-depth changes to education, training and job-search systems in order to facilitate and accelerate the transition from education to employment.
The concept of the Youth Guarantee has been endorsed by the G20 employment ministers meeting last week in Melbourne.
We are working hard with Member States to implement the Youth Guarantee.
A few months ago, all Member States submitted comprehensive Implementation Plans to the Commission. Since then, they have passed new laws; established innovative working methods; and upgraded the support provided by their public employment services. Pilot projects are also running in a number of Member States. So implementation of the Youth Guarantee is well on track and is already bringing results. Compared to other structural reforms in Europe, the Youth Guarantee is probably the most rapidly implemented.
As President Schulz highlighted a few days ago at the Cohesion Forum, significant EU funding dedicated to implement the Youth Guarantee has been made available to the Member States, including through front-loading of the EU budget.
Let me inform you of the state of play of the dedicated Youth Employment Initiative resources with the latest data.
The Commission has received all 34 Operational Programmes which include resources from the Initiative. 26 out of 34 will be adopted in 2014, covering about 85% of the total amount of the Youth Employment Initiative.
As regards financial allocations, we can therefore ensure - on the basis of the submitted Operational Programmes - that all the €6.4 billion of the Youth Employment Initiative will be committed in 2014-2015.
In addition, on the basis of the draft operational programmes submitted by the Member States, we can foresee that over €4 billion euros of additional European Social Fund resources will be committed to support youth employment.
In other words, the Member States have, at this stage, approximately €10 billion to support young people.
What about the actual action on the ground?
Some Member States have already stated that they are making use of the early eligibility date - i.e. 1 September 2013 - and they are funding measures on the ground that can be reimbursed from the Initiative and ESF resources.
I have asked national authorities to provide us with concrete information on the estimated number of young people to benefit from these measures, and on the types of measures financed by the Member States in 2014. I expect to receive this information from the Member States by the end of this month.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The level of unemployment has been decreasing in Europe in the last one year but is still very high. There are still more than 5 million young people among the unemployed.
I believe the Youth Guarantee will help to make an economic recovery job-rich and it will make a systemic and decisive improvement to school-to-work transitions.
However, we should not forget that, in the absence of overall economic growth, it would be impossible for any labour market reform to solve an economic crisis of such a magnitude as we have experienced in Europe. In other words, the Youth Guarantee will deliver much more when it will be accompanied by adequate more supportive macroeconomic instruments.
I count on the Italian Presidency to keep all this high on the political agenda.
Thank you Madame Chair.
I would like to thank the European Parliament for this very important debate, and I also want to thank those who expressed some personalised messages about my work and the Commission's work in this area.
It is the duty of the Commission to inform the Parliament about every step that is made in the area of youth employment.
I would like to respond to some of the key points of the discussion of this day.
First of all, I would like to clarify that the Youth Guarantee is a reform. It is about a reform agenda, it's about reforming vocational training, it's about reforming - if necessary - how the public employment services work in various EU Member States, because it is public action which is needed to help young people who might be looking for a job or who might not even be registered as unemployed in many cases. And obviously the purpose is to gain the skills which are relevant for the labour market, and the information and experience which will help young people's future career.
Let me also clarify that the Youth Guarantee is not a one-size-fits-all project. It allows for a lot of flexibility, for example integrating measures for boosting entrepreneurship. It allows for demand side measures but also supply side investments, and it calls for innovative approaches at the level of Member States and also within regions.
Concerning the actual trends, I think it's clear that, in the recent period, unemployment including youth unemployment has been falling faster outside the Eurozone than inside the Eurozone. That just highlights how important the macroeconomic background is for making progress.
Nevertheless, in those countries where there has been progress with reducing youth unemployment rate, I would like to underline three important criteria which also need to be observed at the same time. One of them is the quality of the new jobs. The second one is the outreach to the 'NEETs', because it's not enough just to reduce the number of the registered unemployed, the Youth Guarantee is also about reaching out to those who are neither in employment, education nor training. And third, which is very important in our scheme - and it is actually uniform - is the four-months deadline, the actual guarantee that the young people can count on this safety net.
The second observation from the actual trends is that indeed there is no conflict between labour mobility and reducing youth unemployment. Countries that have been either performing well, or making progress in the recent period, like Germany or the UK, have experienced relatively significant inward mobility but at the same time falling unemployment or low unemployment. Why? Because they have been on the better side of the EU in terms of economic growth and this allowed for creating new jobs in this period. So the contradiction or a trade-off which some people assume to exist in reality cannot be observed
About the money: Of course more money is always better than less money, but the important thing is to take advantage of the existing budget, and the EU budget is not the only source. It was never meant to be the only source for the Youth Guarantee, especially in countries and regions which are not eligible for the Youth Employment initiative, because they have had relatively better performance already. So it's also important to rely on national resources and combine the European Social fund plus the top-up fund, the famous €6 billion in regions where the youth unemployment rate has been extremely high in the past period. It's also important, if Members are concerned with the flow of the EU funds, to take the lead in Council to refuel the EU budget with the payment credits which are necessary to enable the Commission to pay the bills in time under the European Social Fund and other financial instruments. A very good starting point for this would be to agree on a third amending budget for 2014 and a draft budget for 2015, without any cuts in the Commission proposal. We need to reduce the accumulated backlog of payment claims, and not to increase it further.
And finally my last point is about the evaluation. I agree with those who stress the importance of serious, fact based evaluation of the progress – or in some cases the lack of it. This evaluation has to be inclusive. It has to include the social partners, European as well as national parliaments, and most importantly the youth organisations themselves. This is what I have been doing in my capacity, to meet as many representatives of the youth forum and various youth organisations as possible, and this is what we are encouraging at the level of the Member States too.
Thank you Madame Chair.
(See also MEMO/14/530)