Young people deserve support and guidance

Image of distressed young teenage boy

Today marks UN International Youth Day 2014, where the spotlight is on ‘youth and mental health’. The mental health of young people appears to be linked to their employment status: Eurofound research has found that unemployed and inactive young people are more likely than others to feel socially excluded, to feel lonely, to face a lack of social support and to have lower levels of mental well-being. Recognising the gravity of rising youth unemployment, many EU countries have implemented or modified policy measures specifically targeting young people.

Youth transitions

Apart from the EU Youth Guarantee currently being rolled out, Member States have also been offering and funding programmes and measures to help facilitate smooth transitions from education to work as well as into adulthood. Some measures are aimed at particularly disadvantaged groups.

A recent Eurofound study looked at a selection of good practices and policy measures that promote smoother and more successful school-to-work transitions. Particular attention was paid to the most disadvantaged young people and those that are furthest from the labour market, particularly those with health problems, a migration background or multiple disadvantages.

For instance, in Germany, the Bonus for Apprenticeship Places (Ausbildungsbonus) offers financial incentives to employers to take on an apprentice who is socially disadvantaged, has a learning disability, has low or no qualifications or has been made redundant.

In Sweden, the increased number and use of personal advisers have led to greater programme quality in the trial introduction programme for newly arrived refugees and job search assistance, coaching and counselling services, as well as the provision of work internships.

The study found that labour market transitions are strongly linked with broader transitions into adulthood. Personal-related variables, like health, including mental health, level of education, age, work experience and working hours, generally affect the probability of staying in employment.

Policy focus

The study highlights that it is crucial to recognise that young people are a very diverse group with different characteristics and often multiple needs. Yet, it was difficult to find effective measures that successfully target those that are furthest from the labour market. Therefore, policies and programmes should recognise this group from the outset and structure services accordingly.

In general, it was easier to identify measures geared towards people who were making the transition from school to work, than those for young people who had withdrawn from employment on grounds of ill-health or for other reasons.

An important feature of successful programmes is the intensive and personalised guidance and support provided by personal advisers and mentors. Some programmes envisaged support not only for the young people but also for the employers. This proved to be particularly useful when dealing with the most disadvantaged young people where employers might need extra support.

A smooth integration of young people into the labour market, avoiding spells of unemployment, seems crucial; this points to the great importance of addressing the current record levels of youth unemployment in the EU. Policy measures, such as the Youth Guarantee, are vital to avoid spells of unemployment that may negatively affect young people’s personal situation, their career prospects, future labour market attachment or their mental health.

Read more in Eurofound’s latest report: Mapping youth transitions in Europe

Further reading

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