15 April 2019

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 at present. Young people have long been an important focus of policy at EU level and this is particularly true today. The current EU Youth Strategy (2010–2018) has two challenging objectives. The first is to provide more and equal opportunities for young people in education and in the labour market. The second is to encourage young people to be active citizens and to participate in society.

Addressing the youth employment crisis is high on Europe's political agenda. On 7 December 2016, the 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 includes 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.

The package is committed to evidence-based policymaking and Eurofound's mission to provide knowledge to assist in developing social and work-related policies is highly relevant here. In Eurofound's programming document 2017–2020, youth issues will be addressed as part of several strategic topic areas, particularly well-functioning and inclusive labour markets, quality of life and quality of society, as well as access to public services.

Eurofound work

To date, Eurofound has carried out a large body of work on youth issues related to employment, quality of life and social cohesion.

Key contributions: Crisis and jobs

Young people have been hit especially hard by the crisis. EU unemployment reached a record level of 10.9% in the first quarter of 2013, but the level among under-25s was much higher at 23.5%. In Greece and Spain more than half of young people were without work and rates in Portugal (38.2%) and Italy (37.8%) were also extremely high.

With youth unemployment at such critical levels, the key questions are 'Where are the jobs?' and 'How else can young people be helped?' Eurofound's recent work 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.

Key contributions: NEETs and exclusion

Serious though it is, youth unemployment is only part of the problem. A particular challenge arises in relation to the disproportionate impact of the recession on young people under 30, even those with higher levels of education: about 12.5 million of those aged 15–29 are not in employment, education or training (NEET). Eurofound seeks to understand the economic and social consequences of youth disengagement from the labour market and education. See Eurofound’s extensive work in the topic area on NEETs.

Crisis apart, 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 third European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) 2012 found important differences between age groups in relation to quality of life, social inclusion and the quality of society. These can be seen in detail by using the age-group filter of the EQLS Survey Mapping Tool. EQLS data have also been used to compile a 2014 policy brief on the social situation of young people in Europe (featured below).

The fifth 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 sixth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) 2015 has shown that the skills gap between younger and older workers is gradually closing. Further information can be explored using the EWCS Survey Mapping Tool.

Featured: Social situation of young people in Europe

1 April 2014 - This policy brief draws on findings from Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) and other research projects to formulate a number of policy pointers. It looks at the quality of life of young people in Europe, focusing on dimensions such as living arrangements, social exclusion, relationships and sources of support, as well as participation in society and social/cultural activities.
Foundation Findings – Social situation of young people in Europe


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