Youth Guarantee: Making it happen
8 April 2014, Brussels, Belgium
One year on since EU agreement on the Youth Guarantee, the European Commission hosted a high-level conference – Youth Guarantee: Making it happen – in Brussels on 8 April to discuss progress towards implementation across Member States.
Participating were government officials, Youth Guarantee coordinators, managing authorities of funding programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund, EU and national social partners, MEPs, representatives of international organisations, youth organisations, public employment services, the G20 Task Force on Employment and others who have a role to play in implementing the Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee, adopted in April 2013.
The Youth Guarantee means that each Member State should:
ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
In his opening address, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, said the idea of the conference was to discuss the practical implementation of the Youth Guarantee by bringing together those involved directly in the design and implementation of the various schemes on the ground.
Member States were requested to submit Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans laying out how young people under 25 will receive a quality offer of employment, education, apprenticeship or training within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. Mr Andor confirmed that 23 Member States have already prepared these plans and ‘delivery is taking off’.
Europe embracing youth
The President of the European Commission, José Manual Barroso, highlighted in his opening speech the ‘unsustainable and unacceptable’ youth unemployment rate of 22.9%. With signs of economic recovery, promoting youth employment must be a top priority. The Youth Guarantee, he said, ‘is about rolling out quality traineeships and apprenticeships on a much larger scale than before’. He emphasised that young people will only embrace Europe if Europe embraces them.
Calling on Member States to invest in ‘quality jobs’ for these young people, he stated that ‘Europe can only prosper if we give our young people opportunities’. Quoting Eurofound’s European Company Survey 2013, he highlighted that about 40% of firms across the EU have difficulties finding staff with the right skills. The Youth Guarantee is therefore a ‘key investment for the future’. With the political will to tackle youth unemployment, it is a priority to speed up preparations for the Youth Employment Initiative funding of €6 billion for regions with youth unemployment rates above 25%. President Barroso believes the Youth Guarantee’s success depends greatly on ‘sharing ownership’ among the various players.
This message of shared ownership resonated throughout the conference as participants endorsed the view that a joint effort is necessary and that the Youth Guarantee should not be seen as a ‘quick fix’ but as a long-term structural reform to improve school-to-work transitions. Young people must be consulted on the implementation of measures and youth organisations, education providers and public employment services will play a central role in the uptake of the Guarantee.
Participating in the session on ‘Implementing the Youth Guarantee in countries with high youth unemployment’, Eurofound Research Manager Massimiliano Mascherini presented findings on youth in Europe, particularly those who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs). Listening to the Youth Guarantee Coordinators in Portugal, Spain and Ireland, who spoke about the challenges in their respective countries, he said he was delighted to see the focus on NEETs.
He reiterated that the various interventions in the various countries have to take into account that this is a very heterogeneous population and interventions have to match the characteristics and needs of these young people – particularly discouraged workers and young women with family responsibilities. He highlighted the Nordic model of the Youth Guarantee as an example of good practice in how their development plans can optimise that match between the job-seeker and the intervention.
Time to deliver
Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder congratulated the Commission on launching the Youth Guarantee, but put the focus on action and in his statement said ‘now is the time for delivery’. While acknowledging that the Youth Guarantee is not a panacea, he said it is a concrete measure to give young people hope and to connect them with the labour market and society. He spoke about the importance of accessibility of programmes for the target groups and high-quality and sustainable training and employment opportunities. He reaffirmed the ILO’s continued support in the next phases of implementation.
The Commission is preparing country-specific recommendations, which are expected in June 2014.
Download background leaflet: The Youth Guarantee: Making it happen (714 KB PDF)