Addressing risks facing young people: What kind of policies work?

Although different groups of workers have been badly affected by Europe’s economic situation, the crisis in youth unemployment (23.2% in the EU27, June 2013) is the most critical. In particular, the 14 million young people aged 15–29 across the EU who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) are most at risk of disengagement and social exclusion.

The risk of becoming NEET

Certain categories of young people are at a higher risk of becoming NEET, based on their social or economic circumstances.

Education – Young people with a low level of education are three times more likely than their peers to become NEET.
Immigration – Those with an immigration background are 70% more likely.
Disability – Those with some kind of disability are 40% more likely.
Divorce – Young people whose parents are divorced are 30% more likely.
Unemployment – Having parents who experienced unemployment increases the probability by 17%.
Household income – Those with a low household income are more likely.
Location – Young people living in a remote area are 1.5 times more likely.

What policies work to combat these challenges?

Given the current financial restrictions on many EU Member States as a result of the crisis, it is vital that any investment to support these young people and in integrating them back into the labour force is spent effectively. Therefore, the question being asked in the policy debate is ‘what works?’

A study by Eurofound, Effectiveness of policy measures to increase the employment participation of young people, looked at 25 policies for tackling youth unemployment across some EU Member States. The analysis highlights a number of insights into the design of effective programmes.

  • Successful programmes specify the target group and find innovative ways to reach them.
  • Young people vary in their level of labour market readiness, so policies have to cater for a range of needs, from minor to complex.
  • Young people should be set on a long-term sustainable pathway, rather than given low-quality quick fixes.
  • Measures that aim to increase the employability of young people should focus on labour market needs and ensure a buy-in of employers and their representatives.
  • Youth unemployment requires flexible responses, which have to be adapted to economic cycles, whereas social exclusion is a structural issue and has to be addressed consistently.

Read more about the situation of young people in Europe in the Eurofound Yearbook 2012: Living and working in Europe.

Presenting Eurofound research

In the coming months, Eurofound plans to present findings from its current research at various events in Europe and beyond, particularly the G-20 Youth Summit in August in Saint Petersburg, the EU Youth Conference under the Lithuanian Presidency in September in Vilnius and also the Investing in Youth Employment Conference in September in Sydney.

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