Social inclusion of young people a major concern for Europe

Young people who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis are now the group at highest risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU, as highlighted in Eurofound’s new report Social inclusion of young people. While young people can deal relatively well with short spells of unemployment, long-term unemployment or disengagement has a strong negative impact on their well-being, their future labour market outcomes and society as a whole.

The report explores the labour market and social perspectives of young people across the EU, looking at employment-focused initiatives, as well as broader, more holistic approaches aimed at fighting social exclusion of young people.

Youth Guarantee: Successes and challenges

The Youth Guarantee is a new policy framework at European level largely drawing on the good experience of similar schemes in Austria, Finland and Sweden. Conceived in 2013, the Youth Guarantee aims to provide young people with a good quality offer of a job, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education.

The report provides an in-depth analysis of the first year of Youth Guarantee implementation in 10 Member States – Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK. While Member States have made great efforts in rolling out the Youth Guarantee quickly and adapting it to their needs, the research has identified a number of common challenges to implementing the Youth Guarantee, related to:

  • legal and policy frameworks;
  • partnership approaches;
  • infrastructure of the public employment service (PES) and monitoring and evaluation provisions;
  • provisions for vocational education and training (VET) and absorption capacity of the labour market.

The report also shows that during the first year of implementation, given the scale of youth unemployment, some Member States focused more attention on young people who are ‘job-ready’ and likely to be more easily reintegrated in the labour market. Therefore, further initiatives aimed at reaching out to hard-to-reach young people should be designed and implemented.

Broader approaches

While the Youth Guarantee seeks to intervene quickly and help young people back into the labour market, there are many other policies and measures at EU, Member State and regional level promoting the social inclusion of young people.

Going beyond an employment focus, the report discusses broader approaches to support the social inclusion, empowerment and participation of young people. It presents a set of policy measures and good practices aimed at ensuring social inclusion of young people in 11 Member States – Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Broader social inclusion policies can be grouped into individualising measures which address individual capabilities to cope with labour market and societal demands, and structure-related measures which address either the socioeconomic aspects or the institutional set-up of youth transitions. Policy measures can also be considered on the basis of whether they are mainly compensatory (repair disadvantage that has already happened) or preventive (prevent development of disadvantage) in nature. 

Broader social inclusion policies include those aimed at youth participation, specific policies for disadvantaged groups, and policies for access to services and income support that aim to address to particular needs of specific youth populations. Such measures typically include mentoring, counselling and social support which are important when offering second-chance education opportunities, acknowledging the fact that early school-leaving is caused by a ‘cumulative process of disengagement’ that encompasses different areas of a young person’s family, social and education life.

How to improve social inclusion

The report provides pointers as to how to improve the levels of social inclusion of young people across the EU. Among these are:

  • to encourage more coordination between employment and social inclusion policies aimed at young people;
  • to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of the PES and the absorption capacity of VET and education systems more broadly;
  • to target more public investment towards broader social policy measures;
  • to tailor schemes towards young people who are not job-ready and require extra support for reintegration.

Eurofound research managers Massimiliano Mascherini and Anna Ludwinek presented the report’s findings at the European Parliament on 23 September.

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