One year ago, action teams were created to help the 8 countries with the highest rates of youth unemployment. By the end of 2012, the youth unemployment rate had declined by 0.8 percentage points in Ireland and by 4.3 percentage points in Lithuania. But it had continued to climb in other Member States like Italy and Portugal (with rate around 38%), Greece (over 58%) and Spain (nearly 56%).
The Commission has made the fight against youth unemployment a top priority, and a lot has happened in the last few months.
Tabled by the Commission in December, Member States agreed on a Council Recommendation on Establishing a Youth Guarantee by late February. This is record time. The Recommendation was then formally adopted on 22 April.
With the Youth Guarantee, Member States have committed to ensuring that within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education all young people up to the age of 25 receive a quality offer of a job, an apprenticeship or a traineeship, or the opportunity to continue their education or training.
Youth Employment Initiative and ESF
EU funding can help through the European structural funds. There will be a targeted investment priority in the future European Social Fund on sustainable labour market integration of young people not in employment, education or training. All Member States with high youth unemployment rates will allocate some of their ESF funding for 2014-20 to Youth Guarantee schemes.
In addition, the European Council in February decided to support the implementation of the Youth Guarantee by earmarking €6 billion for a new Youth Employment Initiative. From 2014 this will be available to regions with very high youth unemployment rates.
The Commission considers that a Youth Guarantee would generate positive returns on Member States´ economic situation in the long run and therefore constitute an investment, in the same way as education. In its 2013 Annual Growth Survey, the Commission considers that investments in education should be prioritised and strengthened, and that Member States should maintain or reinforce the coverage and effectiveness of employment services and active labour market policies, such as Youth Guarantee schemes.
But finally, not all measures are costly: for example, building up partnerships between schools, businesses and employment services does not require large budgets, but will significantly contribute towards the success of the Youth Guarantee.