A new study by Eurofound (European Foundation to improve the living and working conditions), released on 22 October, points to the severe consequences of youth unemployment in Europe. It also highlights the need to develop policies that address youth unemployment all over Europe, especially taking into account the effects of the crisis on the younger groups.
In this context, a European Youth Guarantee would ensure that every young person in Europe is offered a job, further education or work-focused training at the latest four months after leaving education or after becoming unemployed. The study notes that if implemented, such a guarantee would mean that immediate action to address youth unemployment can be prompted before disengagement sets in. In addition, a Youth Guarantee – either applied at European or national level – can help reverse the trend of raising youth unemployment in Europe, which in the medium run would also improve States’ finances and counter the effects of the crisis.
The Eurofound report focuses on 15-29 years-old not in employment, education or training (NEET) in the EU. According to Eurostat, in 2011, 14 million young people in that age range were excluded from the labour market and education in Europe. One of the most affected groups by the economic crisis, the percentage of young people not in employment, education or training has steadily risen since 2008 (from 28% to 33%).
The implications of this phenomenon are huge for both the concerned individuals and for the society.
On top of the personal distress of not being able to integrate the society they live in, serious concerns have been raised about the potential implications of NEET status on the democratic engagement and civic participation of young people. The Eurofound study alerts to the fact that this disengagement may lead some young people to opt out of participation in civil society or to take part at the extremes of political engagement.
Furthermore, the study highlights the massive loss to European economies due to their inability to successfully employ young people in the labour market. In what it calls a “conservative estimate”, the report points to a loss of almost €120 billion in 2008, corresponding to around 1% of European GDP. However, considering the ongoing nature of the crisis, which continues to increase the size of the NEET population, Eurofound estimates this loss to have increased to €153 billion (2011), corresponding to a loss of more than 1.2% of European GDP.