The Party of European Socialists (PES) has called for genuine European action on the youth unemployment crisis to be one of the main conclusions of the EU summit on Monday (30th January). The party has also heavily criticised the ‘empty proposals’ on the topic by German Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy.
PES President, Sergei Stanishev said that, after a year of high-level political consultation, the PES has a detailed plan to tackle youth unemployment. “Youth unemployment costs the European Union 2 billion euros per week” said the PES President, “A Europe-wide youth guarantee should be introduced, ensuring that every young person in Europe must be offered a job, further education or work-focused training, at the latest four months after leaving education or after becoming unemployed. The EU must invest the necessary funds to lift at least 2 million young people out of unemployment by the end of 2014.”
He contrasted this sharply with the proposals by Merkel and Sarkozy which he said made “vague and non-committal references to youth unemployment”. Mr. Stanishev said that; “European people are not stupid. They have seen French and German leaders expend enormous political capital to create a harsh “austerity” treaty. No one is fooled by this last minute, hastily drafted, “Merkozy” paper on youth unemployment, which neither foresees investments into young people, nor concrete legislation. This paper is just ‘mood music’ designed to distract people from their harsh agenda of cuts, deregulation and liberalisation”.
In contrast, the detailed PES proposal, formulated by the PES high level working group on youth unemployment, calls for the introduction of the Youth guarantee no later than end 2013. In recent years, the social democratic parties of Austria and Finland implemented such a youth guarantee, with great success. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and Finish Vice-Prime Minister Jutta Urpilainen have been championing the idea at European level. Werner Faymann called on the European Council and the European Commission to invest 10 billion Euros from unspent European Social Fund resources to create 2 million new jobs for young people in Europe.
The social democratic principles of this scheme is echoed in a pre-Christmas Commission communication, initiated by EU social affairs Commissioner, Laszlo Andor. In the 21 December paper, entitled Youth opportunities initiative, the Hungarian social democrat outlines the need for concrete actions.
The Party of European socialists are set to discuss the youth guarantee in their pre-summit meeting at 11h00 on Monday. The meeting will take place in the PES headquarters on 98 rue du trone, Brussels.
PES Youth Employment Campaign
At the moment, around 5,6 million young people in the EU are unemployed – a figure equal to the entire population of Denmark. The crisis has hit young people disproportionally high, increasing their unemployment twice as much as the adult rate (22% compared with 9.8%). In countries like Spain and Greece the situation is even worse, with nearly half of the young people out of work. Moreover, many of those who are in employment work in low-quality jobs and barely have social security. Tackling youth unemployment is a precondition for re-launching growth, for balancing budgets and for avoiding a social catastrophe.
In order to achieve real progress and prevent the loss of an entire generation, the PES will launch a youth employment campaign. The campaign intends to raise awareness of the Youth guarantee and implement political solutions in coordination with member parties and civil society. The PES will work closely with its partners in all EU institutions, trade unions, social and youth NGOs, to improve the conditions for reducing youth unemployment in Europe. The PES will also encourage its member parties to organise national round tables in order to develop solutions tailored to their countries, bringing the results together in a major conference in November this year.
The main PES proposals for fighting youth unemployment:
- As first of 20 concrete measures, the PES proposes the introduction of a Europe-wide youth guarantee, ensuring that every young person in Europe must be offered a job, further education or work-focused training, at the latest four months after leaving education or after becoming unemployed.
- In order to achieve it, the PES demands to redirect at least €10 billion of unused European Social Funds to a special “youth employment strategy”. This way, 2 million new jobs and apprenticeship places for young people could be created. Another measure is the use of the 6% of all national and European budgets to be spent on high-quality education and to introduce the dual education system in all Member States.
- The investments needed to implement a youth guarantee are much lower than the costs of youth unemployment and a poorly skilled workforce. The European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions estimates that the consequences of millions of young people being neither employed nor receiving education or training causes costs of at least € 2 billion per week – the equivalent of 1.1% of GDP in total. The reintegration of 10% of these young people into the labour market would achieve a yearly saving of more than € 10 billion.
- High-quality jobs are another of the keystones of the campaign: a public and private investment programme of € 210 billion annually in order to create new jobs and decarbonise Europe’s economy, especially in those countries more affected by the crisis.
- The PES demands to revise European and national legislation to ensure a high quality of work for all young people and to end discrimination of disadvantaged groups of young people, such as young migrants and young people with disabilities. A concrete action plan is needed to overcome the gender pay gap of young employees. In addition, childcare and the mobility of young employees must be supported.