Unemployment and youth: what's up in Europe?
In certain countries, the unemployment rate among young people can reach as high as 40% and the EU average can be twice as high among them as the overall unemployment rate. At the same time employers find it hard to fill job vacancies, there is labor shortage. In every single national economy there probably are different reasons why the labor market does not match the jobs available, many cases it is inadequate skills, poor geographic mobility or low wages.
Attempts of solution in the EU
The Youth Guarantee programme’s goal is for every young person to receive a job offer, opportunity for further education, internship or apprenticeship, maximum 4 months after becoming unemployed. All member states implemented this program according to a 2013 European Council recommendation, and since 2014, over 3.5 million young people registered and got an offer through the system.
If we are talking about the occupation of the younger generations the goal is not for everyone to have a job in the traditional sense. Among the plans of the Commission there is the Investing in Europe’s Youth package that also aims to provide better opportunities for work, but so much more. It is a goal to maximize the participation in Erasmus+ program, not only the most well-known form of it, the higher education exchanges. Those who don’t wish to continue studying after secondary education can still take part in multiple forms of internships and apprenticeships abroad, which might seem obvious but doesn’t seem to be a number one choice for those millenials and gen Z youngsters who choose professional education and work instead of higher education. EVS (European Voluntary Service) belongs to this very same package as well as the European Solidarity Corps, both of which aims to elevate participation among young people and are an excellent choice for those who would like to gain experience not by working or studying, but during voluntary work.
To receive answers from first hand to the questions of the above, I asked Zsófia Rácz, who during the past year, since she has been the UN Youth Delegate of Hungary has been dealing daily with issues concerning young people, especially regarding employment.
How do you see the – for me – surprizing statistics that say about 6.5 million young people are not engaged in education nor in training?
The „science” of researching NEET (not engaged in education or training) young people is a tipically 21st century invention. Now they not only research the percentage of unemployed young people but also who those young people are who don’t take part in any kind of education and training in order to correct the statistics you mentioned. Since the NEET phenomena is our day’s illness, in my opinion it is not enough to simply name these youngsters nihilists, we have to examine the social or economic factors that provoked the situation.
What are those factors in your opinion? It seems that we are in an abundance of opportunities through different programs. I think, for example many people don’t even know about all the opportunities for traveling and education or doing basically anything anywhere.
I don’t think either that the problem would be the lack of opportunities. According to my opinion and experience we are facing something called „qualification mismatch”. It means that young people do not receive the kind of education or training that would help them find their place on the labor market. This phenomenon leads to general hopelessness, young people not wanting to learn or participate in training, because they simply see no point of it regarding their future.
What can be done?
On international level, one of the most popular solutions is introducing and promoting informal education. We have to acknowledge, that most educational systems won’t be able to react competitively for 21st century challenges immediately.
The most effective solution (there are a few good examples already) is a personalized mentoring program to follow young people all through their years spent in education and to monitor that they study something that will later benefit them.
If it is not a secret, may I ask if there is a conversation about this case at the Ministry of Human Capacities? What sort of initiations are there?
Of course, the ones in charge of education policy deal with the question on a daily basis, it is everyone’s interest to bring up youg people who apart from learning lexical knowledge are also able to use it in practice. Since the new national curriculum is still a mistery for all of us, it is sure too early to talk about a comprehensive education policy reform.
In my experience, the Ministry is mainly trying to ease the way for young people to participate in education by for example free language exams, it is a well-known fact that us, Hungarians have a long way to go when it comes to learning foreign languages.
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