Youth Policy Conference
25–26 June 2014, Maynooth, Ireland
European and international developments in youth policy, as well as the path Irish youth policy has taken over the past 30 years, were the focus of the Youth Policy Conference on 25–26 June at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. The Youth Policy Conference was hosted by the Department of Applied Social Studies of NUI Maynooth.
The conference included sessions on Irish, European and international youth policy as well as panels and workshops, with contributions from policy, practice and academia.
Eurofound Research Manager Anna Ludwinek participated in the session on European and International Developments: Overview, Update and Analysis. She presented findings on the social and employment situation of young people in the EU and policy pointers on this topic. She drew attention to the risks associated with the currently high youth unemployment rate, the 14.6 million young people under 30 not in employment, education or training (NEET) and the high rate of young people at risk of poverty and social exclusion due to the crisis.
She was joined by representatives of the European Commission, Council of Europe, United Nation's youth organisation and National Youth Council of Ireland, all of which have been actively working in different areas of youth policy including labour market participation, the role of youth work and recognition of non-formal education.
Launched in March 2014, Eurofound’s policy brief on the Social situation of young people in Europe shows the difficult situation young people are facing. The percentage of 18–29-year-olds living with their parents has increased from 44% in 2007 to 48% in 2011; this is the case for both men and women. Countries showing a dramatic rise of 15 percentage points or more include Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania and Poland.
Despite unemployment levels and having to live with their parents, in general young people are more satisfied with their family and social life than other age groups. However, those who are unemployed, those with children and those living with their parents report the lowest satisfaction with social life.
Ms Ludwinek highlighted that around half of all young people in the EU live in households experiencing some form of deprivation. The most vulnerable groups are those who are unemployed, inactive in the labour market or young people living with their children and their parents. The rate of young people experiencing serious deprivation increased by six percentage points between 2007 and 2011, with those in the southern European Member States hardest hit.
A lack of employment opportunities has a large impact on perceived social exclusion. Unemployed or inactive young people feel the most excluded from society and are also more likely to feel lonely.
Areas to improve
- Unemployment remains a huge barrier to independence for young people. Therefore, European and national policies must recognise the importance of having a successful transition into employment and adulthood.
- Moreover, policies should accommodate flexible arrangements that would give young people with children who want to work the chance to combine work and care obligations.
- Low ratings on well-being and life satisfaction among unemployed and inactive young people point to the need to avoid possible long-term effects on mental health and well-being. Governments and service providers should take stock of the emerging need for increased services for young people.
- Youth organisations will also play an important role in reaching out to disengaged young people.
- Volunteering and active citizenship are positive tools to get young people into work and to help build social capital. Positive examples in this regard include Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.
This discussion followed the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adoption of the opinion on Youth employment measures – best practices in early June. Under the measures to facilitate the transition between school and professional life, the opinion highlights Ireland’s JobBridge programme. This offers work experience placements for periods of 6–9 months for young people who have been claiming social benefits for at least 78 days. However, the EESC argues that such youth activation measures need to happen earlier, as long waiting times for qualification may lead to discouragement among young people.