(22 January 2016) More investment in the future of young people is desperately needed to prevent the social timebomb of youth unemployment in the EU. With youth unemployment levels at over 22% across the EU and a shocking 53% in Spain, and with all economic forecasts suggesting that youth unemployment will remain high across Europe, it is crucial that European-level youth employment initiatives are maintained and extended.
That was the message that young trade unionists took yesterday to Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs. The meeting was led by Thiébaut Weber, Confederal Secretary for Youth at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and attended by young representatives from the European Trade Union Federations. Michael Schuh, President of the EPSU Youth Network, travelled to Brussels from Austria for the day to represent the European Public Service Union.
The meeting followed by a request as far back as 2014 to meet with the Commissioner to discuss the future of youth employment policy at EU level and the involvement of trade unions and social partners in getting young people into work. Participants focused on two flagship initiatives introduced by the European Commission in recent years, as part of a push to tackle the youth unemployment crisis – the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative.
The Youth Guarantee was introduced in 2013 to offer all young people under 25 a good quality job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education within four months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. However it remains a concern that many EU countries have not implemented it, and are not using the funds available for it. Young representatives sought assurances yesterday from the Commissioner that funding for such initiatives will be continued into 2016 and pushed for the full involvement of social partners, including trade unions, in their assessment and implementation.
EPSU’s representative highlighted the importance of including public services in European measures to tackle youth unemployment. Austerity cuts, a lack of investment and widespread recruitment freezes in public services across Europe have left sectors struggling to cope with growing need on the ground. A huge gap between service provision and demand looms ahead of us unless we reverse these trends and actively train young people to be the next generation of public services workers. Including public service guarantees in the Youth Guarantee will help to tackle the ageing workforce in many public services and give young people quality training that should lead to a job in the end.
It was positive to hear that Commissioner Thyssen is sympathetic to trade unionists’ concerns over the future of youth employment measures and that she would like to see greater involvement of social partners and young people in EU initiatives. However with youth unemployment figures remaining stubbornly high, young people’s futures will not be secured by good intentions alone. Trade unions want to see decisive action taken to ensure greater investment in jobs and training for young people, better enforcement of measures already in place and – importantly – a clear role for all social partners in future youth employment efforts. Yesterday was an important step in this process, but much more needs to be done.
The trade union youth representatives meeting Commissioner Thyssen were Thiébaut Weber and Tom Vrijens (ETUC), Cathrine Ertsas (UNI-EU), Inge Gielis (EFFAT), Michael Schuh (EPSU), Chiara Lorenzini (EFBWW), Sascha Ernszt (IndustriAll), Koen Reynaerts (ETF).