3 December 2021

Youth is the term used to describe the period between childhood and adulthoodRead more

Youth is the term used to describe the period between childhood and adulthood. While this may be a fluid definition, it is also used in policy terms to refer to specific age groups. 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. 

Read less

Recent updates

Recovering from this pandemic means rebuilding hope for the future

The key word across Europe in response to the 2008 economic crisis was ‘austerity’, and its damaging legacy was borne...

COVID-19: A changed Europe

It has been almost two years since the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit Europe and many of the response measures...

Youth of Europe in spotlight in discussions between Eurofound and H.E. Leonard Sacco, Ambassador of Malta to Ireland

Eurofound’s Executive Director Ivailo Kalfin met with H.E. Leonard Sacco, Ambassador of the Republic of Malta to...

EU context


Youth employment and issues affecting young people remain high on the EU’s policy agenda and there is strong concern that young people will be among the main victims of the COVID-19 crisis.Read more

Youth employment and issues affecting young people remain high on the EU’s policy agenda and there is strong concern that young people will be among the main victims of the COVID-19 crisis. Having already paid the highest toll of the previous recession, to avoid history repeating itself the European Commission has proposed a reinforced Youth Guarantee as a concrete policy instrument to tackle the employment and social consequences of COVID-19. This aims to ensure that all young people under 30 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.

This initiative will build on previous actions carried out at European level. The Commission’s 2016 Communication ‘Investing in Europe's Youth’ was 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 launched in 2013, better opportunities through education and training, as well as better opportunities for solidarity, learning mobility and participation.

As part of this effort, the latest 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’.

In January 2020, the Commission presented its Communication 'A strong social Europe for just transitions'. This prepared the way for an Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, which reiterates the EU’s commitment to the Youth Guarantee. On 1 July 2020, the Commission launched a Youth Employment Support package structured around four strands to provide a ‘bridge to jobs’ for the next generation. The Commission put forward a proposal for a Council Recommendation on ‘A Bridge to Jobs – Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee’, to replace the 2013 Recommendation. This initiative will link in with the needs of companies to provide the skills needed, particularly for the green and digital transitions. It extends the age range covered by the Youth Guarantee from age 15–24 to 15–29. The package also includes a proposal on vocational education and training, a renewed impetus for apprenticeships and additional measures to support youth employment. 

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, proposed by the European Commission in March 2021 and followed by a declaration at the Porto Social Summit in May 2021, introduced ambitious targets for young people, such as reducing the rate of young people aged 15–29 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) from 12.6% (2019) to 9% by 2030.

Eurofound’s work on youth issues links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on an economy that works for people and is highly relevant here.

Read less



Image of Youth in the EU infographic - November 2021
Infographic 2021

Eurofound has carried out a large body of work on youth issues related to employment, quality of life and social cohesion. In light of the economic and social crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic, research continues to look at issues affecting young people in several topic areas, particularly well-functioning and inclusive labour markets, quality of life and quality of society, as well as access to public services.

COVID-19 and its impact on young people

Eurofound’s unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people's lives, including young people, with the aim of helping policymakers shape the response to this crisis. Carried out in several rounds, it allows for comparison of the challenges facing young people during the different stages of living through the pandemic.  

Topics affecting young people include job loss and insecurity, mental well-being, social exclusion and optimism about the future, experiences with online education, trust in institutions and access to public services. The findings show that young people are again being hard-hit by the social and economic impacts of yet another crisis.

Building on this research, Eurofound has analysed the impact of COVID-19 on young people in the EU in terms of employment, their economic situation, social exclusion, mental well-being and trust in institutions. It also provides an overview of the policy measures put in place to reduce the economic and social impact of the pandemic on young people. 

The 2008–2013 crisis and jobs

In the aftermath of the 2008–2013 crisis, EU unemployment soared to alarming levels, hitting 19% for those aged 15–29 and reaching even higher levels in individual Member States. With the help of the Young Guarantee and other measures, youth unemployment has recovered in recent years, finally reaching pre-crisis levels in 2019. But the questions remain as to where the jobs are and how young people can be helped, particularly those who are disengaged from the labour market over the long term. The reinforced Youth Guarantee will be crucial here in reacting to the COVID-19 crisis and in avoiding another sharp increase in youth unemployment. Eurofound's research provides a broad range of inputs to the development of youth policy, looking at:

  • long-term unemployed youth
  • start-up support for young people
  • youth entrepreneurship in Europe
  • mapping youth transitions in Europe
  • youth and work and policy pointers aimed at improving this aspect of life for young people
  • 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.

The focus of research has recently been adapted to examine the effects of COVID-19 on young people in Europe.

NEETs and exclusion

Alongside high unemployment, since 2008 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 were not in employment, education or training (NEET) rose rapidly after 2008, but had been declining again since 2014, returning to pre-crisis levels by 2018. Yet the rates remained 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.

Research on the impact of COVID-19 on young people focuses on the economic and social situation of young people at the onset of the pandemic, particularly NEETs. It describes the labour market participation of young people during the period 2007–2020 and discusses the characteristics and diversity of NEETs.

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, including its surveys.

The online survey Living, working and COVID-19 offers an insight into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on various aspects of the lives of people across Europe. Three rounds of the survey have been completed to date, in April–May and July 2020 and in February–March 2021, aiming to investigate the impact of the crisis on quality of life and quality of society, democracy and trust, working conditions and telework, the financial situation and security of people living in Europe, access to and quality of public services, support measures and attitudes to vaccinations during the pandemic. The data from the various rounds enable comparison by age group.

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. Data from the EWCS 2015 have shown that the skills gap between younger and older workers is gradually closing.

Eurofound’s COVID-19 survey used various questions from the EQLS and EWCS, adapting them where necessary for the purpose of the survey.

Read less

Key outputs over the years

Show more (12)

Key messages

  • Young people have suffered major economic and social consequences as a result of spiralling unemployment since 2008. The economic loss to the EU of having such large numbers of young people outside the labour market and education is estimated at above €153 billion a year.
  • The 2008–2013 crisis highlighted how young people are more vulnerable to economic recession than other age groups. Youth unemployment soared above 40% in many EU countries, and the share of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) peaked at a historical high of 16% of the entire EU population aged 15–29. 
  • Policymakers are deeply concerned that young workers will be the next victims of the COVID-19 economic fallout. Eurofound’s Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey, carried out in three rounds in April–May and July 2020 and in February–March 2021, shows that young people in the EU are grappling with the crisis situation. 
  • Worrying levels of low mental well-being are reported among young people in Europe, especially when it comes to feelings of loneliness and risk of depression, with young people suffering the impact of pandemic restrictions and reduced social interactions more than the older population. 
  • Young people are also faced with job loss, a decrease in working time and insecurity about their professional and financial futures. In the July 2020 round of Eurofound's COVID-19 e-survey, 11% of young respondents reported that they had lost their jobs during the pandemic and 12% considered it likely to happen in the coming months, compared to 8% and 9%, respectively, of workers over 30.
  • The impact of the pandemic on education is also damaging young people’s opportunities to accumulate human capital. The suspension of schooling is likely to hinder skills formation, while reinforcing inequalities between the most privileged and the most vulnerable.
  • Despite the negative effects of the crisis on young people, they remain slightly more optimistic than other age groups: 53% in April and 57% in July 2020, compared with 44% and 48% for the over-30s, reported feeling optimistic about their future. 
  • Young people still trust the EU (6.1 out of 10 in July 2020) slightly more than they trust national governments (5.0). Nonetheless, the implementation of new lockdowns and restrictions on movement risks serious economic and social costs for young people, with implications for their employability and well-being. While such lockdowns and restrictions are a response to the health crisis, their wider societal and economic effects also need to be assessed carefully and taken into account by policymakers.
Read less

Publications & data


The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic. 

  • Publications (151)
  • Data
  • Ongoing work


A selection of related data on this topic are linked below. 

Ongoing work

Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.