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Joblessness among people under the age of 25 exceeds 50

Europe faces its battle over youth unemployment


Leaders agreed in February that they would set aside the money from the EU´s next long-term budget, which runs from 2014-2020, with the funds going towards a "youth guarantee" of training or a job within months of education ending.

But the European Parliament, which must approve the budget, has not yet done so, and there´s a good chance it won´t by the time EU leaders meet in Brussels on June 27-28.

Figures show that joblessness among people under the age of 25 exceeds 50 percent in parts of Greece and Spain, a blight that has given rise to fears of a "lost generation" of youth.

But a closer examination of the figures from Eurostat, the EU´s statistics agency, shows that youth unemployment as a proportion of total unemployment is a bigger problem in many northern European countries than it is in the south.

While overall unemployment may be lower in Scandinavia – for example Sweden´s jobless rate is 8.7 percent, well below the EU average of 11 percent – the bulk of those who are without jobs in Sweden (38 percent) are people aged under 25.

The situation is similar in Finland (30 percent), Denmark (29 percent) and Britain (38 percent). By contrast, youth make up only 14 percent of all those who are out of work in Greece, 16 percent in Spain and 19 percent in Portugal. Across the EU as a whole, the average is 22 percent.

A report published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in November 2012 showed that 15-20 percent of young Scandinavians fail to finish secondary school on time. That creates "major problem in the transition from school to working life" the report said, highlighting the very issue that the EU´s youth guarantee scheme is designed to address. What´s more, psychological studies show that stubborn unemployment among young people leads to frustration, a sense of isolation and resentment. 

Economists have latched on to the youth unemployment discrepancy, suggesting that EU policymakers may be tilting at the wrong windmill if they look to resolve problems in Spain and Greece when the situation is just as bad in the Nordic states.

Source: REUTERS (Reporting By Anders Melin; editing by Luke Baker)

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