At 8.6% the EU unemployment rate is at its lowest level since spring 2009, while youth unemployment is 18.6%. However, unemployment varies widely across the EU, from 4% in the Czech Republic to 24% in Greece.
A Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the Parliament shows that fighting unemployment comes second only to terrorism in terms of people's priorities: 77% of the 28,000 people surveyed want more EU action in tackling unemployment while 69% feel current EU efforts on the issue are insufficient. In the UK 66% of respondents wanted the EU to do more on unemployment, compared to 78% in Ireland.
Responding to the survey findings, the chair of Parliament’s employment committee Thomas Händel said: “The results show that the EU’s founding goal of an end to war no longer suffices. The new thrust of Europe must be one of social justice, an end to joblessness and poverty. One person in four lives at or below the OECD poverty line, youth unemployment remains unacceptably high, while the increase in insecure jobs is leading more and more people to doubt the founding pledge of more prosperity through economic cooperation.”
EU action on unemployment
Addressing long-term unemployment is one of the top priorities for the new Juncker Commission. The Europe 2020 strategy includes goals on youth mobility, innovation, education and social inclusion, and aims to lift at least 20 million Europeans out of poverty by the end of the decade.
The revamping of the EURES network of job seekers and vacancies – approved by MEPs in February – should help to better match labour market supply and demand across the EU.
The Youth Employment Initiative aims to support young people who are not in education, employment or training, while the Globalisation Adjustment Fund was established in order to combat unemployment in cases where large companies scale down production in the EU.
In a resolution passed at the July plenary, MEPs called for an update to the EU’s long-term financing plan to cope with unemployment, especially among young people. In June the Commission launched a skills agenda aimed at boosting employability.