Youth in the labour market: EU’s “bridge to jobs” initiative

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One of the biggest problems in most of the EU member states is employment and, in particular, among young people. The problem’s vital component is education and training youth to future work’s enrolment; here an EU’s support is limited to coordination and recommendation, as education is an almost exclusively the competence of the member states*). However, some “carrots” have been suggested in the Commission’s recommendation to the Council; we hope that these steps will be approved soon by the states.   

 In order to combat the post-pandemic damages to national growth, the education ministries in the member states have to take active actions to provide young people with adequate opportunities to: a) help youth to develop their full potential in taking part in their countries future growth, and b) assist them in taking part in most perspective directions of growth along green and digital transitions.

  Thus, both the states and the EU institutions have to create most feasible strategies in paving the way to young people in the labour market. The post-pandemic period is the right time to direct the states and the EU’s attention towards increased youth employment.

  In the first days of July 2020, the European Commission has come with the specific suggestions to elevate the youth employment issue on a higher level of support in the EU’s integration policies. The newly suggested Youth Employment Support package is built on four strands that provide a “bridge to jobs” for the next generation through: a) reinforcing existing Youth Guarantee, b) a future-proof vocational education and training, c) renewed impetus for apprenticeships, and d) some additional measures to support youth employment.

Short history

 Since the end of the global-2008 financial crisis, youth unemployment increased during five years from 16 per cent to about 24, 5 per cent in 2013, reaching in some states up to 50 per cent.

  Due to extensive efforts from the EU institutions (in particular, through Council Recommendation of 2013) and the member states, these levels decreased to about 15 per cent, a record low, in the beginning of 2020, i.e. before the pandemic. However, presently, as the EU’s statistic shows, youth unemployment in the EU-27 has been at the level of 15, 4 per cent (April 2020), though experts expect even higher figures. The Commission’s Spring- 2020 economic forecast indicated that the EU economy would shrink by over 7 per cent in 2020, the deepest recession in its history and young people entering the workforce would find it harder to secure their employment.

  With the significant EU funding the EU states are being available to implement necessary reforms, i.e. mainly through the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) as a key EU financial resource to support youth employment measures with a proposed 86 bn for the next seven years. Other forms of additional support are also available through, e.g. the Recovery Plan for Europe, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, as well as the REACT-EU program.

  Every year, more than 3.5 million young people receive a Youth Guarantee offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship: the Youth Employment Initiative 2014-2020 totaled almost € 9 billion of the EU’s contributions (on financial support se web-links below).

  Source: Proposal for a Council Recommendation on a “Bridge to Jobs-Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee” and replacing Council Recommendation of 22 April 2013 on establishing a Youth guarantee scheme. Brussels, 1.07.2020 COM (2020) 277 Final 2020/0132 (NLE). 

Youth employment in the contemporary support package

  The financial support scheme includes four main directions which are expected to create “a bridge to jobs for the next generation”, as the Commission ascertains:

  1. Already starting from the EU’s initial efforts in 2013 with a youth guarantee program, the Union’s labour market increased by about 24 million young people. The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on a “bridge to jobs” initiative reinforces existing youth guarantee and steps up the efforts to cover young people aged 15-29. The recommendation’s proposal acknowledges that all those in the “Youth Guarantee Scheme” would receive offers of employment, education, apprenticeship or training within four months. The “bridge to jobs” scheme becomes more inclusive and avoids any forms of discrimination, with a wider coverage of vulnerable groups, youth of racial and ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, or young people living in some rural, remote or disadvantaged urban areas. At the same time, the scheme will be linked with the needs of companies, providing the skills required (in particular, for the green and digital transitions) through stationary and short-term training and preparatory courses, with an adequate and tailored counseling, guidance and mentoring.
  2. The Commission’s proposal includes additional measures on vocational education and training, VET aims to make the whole systems more modern, attractive and flexible in order to fit for the digital and green economy in the states. More agile, learner-centered vocational education and training will help to prepare young people for their first jobs and provide adults with additional opportunities to enhance or change their careers. The new VET will concentrate on vocational excellence, while supporting diversity and inclusiveness.
  3. A suggested renewed impetus for apprenticeships will benefit both employers and young people, adding a skilled labour force to a wide range of socio-economic sectors in the states. Thus, the European Alliance for Apprenticeships has already made available more than 900,000 such opportunities; the “renewed Alliance” will promote national coalitions, support SMEs and reinforce the involvement of social partners, i.e. trade unions and employers’ organisations. The ultimate goal is to sustain the apprenticeship offers further on, as apprentices trained now will be highly skilled workers in a few years’ time.
  4. Additional measures to support youth employment include employment and start-up incentives in the short term, capacity building, creating young entrepreneur networks and inter-company training centers in the medium term, to name a few.

  The Commission urges the EU states to step up youth employment support by making use of the significant funding available under the “Next-Generation-EU” program and the future EU budget. For example, the EU can provide additional funding for: = start-up grants and loans for young entrepreneurs, mentoring schemes and business incubators; = bonuses for SMEs hiring apprentices; = training sessions to acquire new skills needed on the labour market; = capacity-building of public employment services; = career management training in formal education; and = investments in digital learning infrastructure and technology.

  Bottom line: in its proposal on the “bridge to jobs” initiative, the Commission is proposing the following reinforcement features for the Youth Guarantee: – covering young people aged 15-29 (up from 25); – be more inclusive with a wider outreach to more vulnerable groups (e.g. youth of racial and ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, or young people living in some rural, remote or disadvantaged urban areas), as well as avoid any forms of discrimination; – providing adequate linkage with the needs of companies, providing the skills required for the perspective green and digital transitions (with short preparatory courses), – providing tailored counseling, guidance and mentoring. 

*) Note on supplementary and additional measures in national education policies. The present proposal is based on Article 292 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU according to which the Council adopts recommendations acting on a proposal from the Commission, in conjunction with Article 149 which foresees incentive measures designed to support the action of the member states in the field of employment.

  Title IX TFEU defines the EU’s remit regarding employment policies in particular Article 145 on developing a coordinated strategy for employment and Article 147 on contributing to a high level of employment by supporting and complementing the action of the member states. Low labour market performance at national level in terms of youth unemployment and inactivity may have negative economic impact and undermine social and economic cohesion among the EU states.

 The Commission’s reflections

  Commenting on the proposal, the Executive Vice-President for the European economy, V. Dombrovskis underlined that it was becoming even more important to assist the European next generation “to thrive and get on the jobs ladder, especially at this time of crisis”. He added that the proposal provides for both clear and specific ways forward for young people to get the chosen professional capabilities and setting out the EU funding to support the states in boosting youth employment: in this way the present “investment in youth” would help to create a competitive, resilient and inclusive labour market for tomorrow, he concluded.

  Commissioner for jobs and social rights, N. Schmit added that it was a high time “to carry out much-needed reforms” and support measures to young people in their early steps on the labour market. Reference to: (1.07.2020)

  Thus the Commission has made a vital step to support the green and digital transitions in the member states through the support of youth and employment policies. With the “next generation EU” program and the long-term Union’s budget, the Commission proposed significant EU financing opportunities for youth employment: it is now for the member states to prioritise these initiatives.

 More information in the following Commission’s web-links: = Q&A on Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation; = Factsheet on Youth Employment Support; = Communication “Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation”; = Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Bridge to Jobs – reinforcing the Youth Guarantee; = Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training; = Factsheet on Vocational Education and Training 

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