30 March 2020

Providing a good environment for young people to grow up, learn and work in is a key goal for Europe and for Eurofound – but one that faces particular challenges. Young people have long been an important focus of policy at EU level and this is particularly true today. 

EU context

Addressing the youth employment crisis and its knock-on effects remains high on the EU’s policy agenda, despite some improvements in recent years. On 7 December 2016, the European Commission issued a Communication ‘Investing in Europe's Youth’. This is a renewed effort to support young people in the form of a Youth Package. The package supports better opportunities to access employment, via the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative, better opportunities through education and training, as well as better opportunities for solidarity, learning mobility and participation.

As part of this effort, the new EU Youth Strategy (2019–2027), adopted on 26 November 2018, sets out the framework for cooperation with Member States on their youth policies. Activities are grouped into three main areas of action, around the words ‘Engage’, ‘Connect’ and ‘Empower’.


Eurofound's research is highly relevant here. To date, Eurofound has carried out a large body of work on youth issues related to employment, quality of life and social cohesion. Research continues to look at issues affecting young people as part of several topic areas, particularly well-functioning and inclusive labour markets, quality of life and quality of society, as well as access to public services.

Crisis and jobs

In the aftermath of the crisis, EU unemployment reached a record level of 10.9% in the first quarter of 2013, but hit 23.5% for the under-25s and went to even higher levels in individual Member States. With youth unemployment at such critical levels, despite some recovery, the key questions are 'Where are the jobs?' and 'How else can young people be helped?' Eurofound's research provides a broad range of inputs to developing youth policy, looking at:

  • long-term unemployment youth
  • start-up support for young people
  • youth entrepreneurship in Europe
  • mapping youth transitions in Europe
  • youth and work and policy pointers towards improving it
  • helping young workers during the crisis and the contributions of social partners and public authorities
  • experiences of the Youth Guarantee in Finland and Sweden
  • young people not in employment, education or training.

NEETs and exclusion

Alongside high unemployment, the Member States have been dealing with the disproportionate impact of the recession on young people under 30, even those with higher levels of education. The number of those aged 15–29 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) rose rapidly after 2008, but has been declining again since 2014 returning to pre-crisis levels by 2018. Yet the rates remain high in some Member States, particularly Italy and Greece. Eurofound seeks to understand the economic and social consequences of youth disengagement from the labour market and education.

Some young people face particular difficulties in accessing employment: for example, those who have a disability or other health problem are 40% more likely of becoming NEET than others. A policy of active inclusion is seen as the most appropriate for addressing these difficulties. Eurofound has analysed active inclusion policy for young people with disabilities or health problems in 11 EU Member States.

Youth dimension in Eurofound’s surveys

The youth dimension is relevant across many areas of Eurofound research. The European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) 2016 found important differences between age groups in relation to quality of life, social inclusion, the quality of society and access to public services. EQLS data have also been used to compile a policy brief on the social situation of young people in Europe.

The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) 2010 revealed that some aspects of the working conditions of young workers (under 25) differ considerably from those of older workers. More recently, data taken from the EWCS 2015 has shown that the skills gap between younger and older workers is gradually closing.

Featured: Access of youth to information and support services

3 July 2019 - Based on findings from Eurofound’s EQLS 2016 and case study evidence, this report describes the characteristics of the young people who face most difficulties in accessing social and health services, the types of services most relevant to them and the main challenges they face in accessing information and support services. It also looks at what service providers can do to ensure they reach young people in need of their support and presents innovative examples of how to tackle inequalities in access to services.
PublicationInequalities in the access of young people to information and support services

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