Combating youth unemployment in Europe: Lessons learned from early Youth Guarantee implementation

While slight improvements in unemployment numbers have been recorded more recently, almost two-thirds of European Member States continue to experience the highest youth unemployment rates in their history. In countries such as Greece, Spain, Croatia and Italy, more than 40% of young people remain unemployed. Young people’s employment prospects have thus been severely affected by the economic crisis.

In an attempt to respond to the youth unemployment crisis, the Council of the European Union recommended the establishment of the Youth Guarantee. Eurofound’s report Social inclusion of young people investigates early implementation of the Youth Guarantee in 10 Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK.

At the heart of this policy framework lies the aim of presenting all young people up to the age of 25 with a good quality offer of a job, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education. 

Steps towards Youth Guarantee implementation

Since the Council Recommendation in 2013, Member States have started implementing the Youth Guarantee in 2014 with the presentation of the national Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans (YGIPs) adapting this policy framework to their national, regional and local requirements.

In doing so, Member States have adopted different strategies for implementation based on their institutional set-ups, labour market situation and structural framework conditions. Some countries have chosen a more holistic approach using the Youth Guarantee as a means to improve links between labour market, education and vocational education and training (VET) provisions, as well as youth and social policies more generally. Other countries have chosen to apply a narrower approach predominantly focusing on the labour market dimension.

In line with the Council Recommendation, efforts were made to improve stakeholder cooperation and reaching out to young people, and concrete measures were put in place ranging from an increase in information and guidance provision, and activities seeking to smoothen school-to-work transitions, to the encouragement of apprenticeships and youth entrepreneurship. 

Challenges for effective roll-out

A range of challenges however go hand in hand with the implementation of a major policy framework such as the Youth Guarantee. Major concerns persist over Member States focusing on job-ready young people rather than on those who are hard to reach, as well as the quality and sustainability of opportunities offered under the Youth Guarantee framework.

Another challenging aspect is that, besides putting in place immediate measures bringing young people back into education or employment, the Youth Guarantee also entails long-term reforms in order to remove barriers to labour market access faced by Europe’s young people. In addition, a strong evaluation framework is required to ensure effective monitoring of Member States’ Youth Guarantee efforts.

Member States have made great efforts in moving to implement the Youth Guarantee, a policy which is unique in terms of how fast it moved from conception to implementation. Although it does not claim to be a one-size-fits-all solution, the added value of the Youth Guarantee lies mainly in the early intervention to kick-start a young person’s further education or career, the fact that it foresees both immediate measures to help young people back into the labour market and more long-term reforms, as well as the provision of a personalised and integrated approach for young people. 

Eurofound’s assessment of the first year of Youth Guarantee implementation across 10 EU Member States features in its recently published report on the Social inclusion of young people. Chapter 3 of the report presents more detailed findings on Youth Guarantee implementation.

The 10 country reports are available on demand from Eurofound. Email Massimiliano Mascherini: mam@eurofound.europa.eu

Read the previous article in this series: Social inclusion of young people a major concern for Europe

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