21st Oct 2016


EU states must act on youth poverty

  • Spain is particularly tough for young workers, with many taking low quality jobs because of a lack of other opportunities. (Photo: keith ellwood)

Youth campaigners have urged EU states to rethink the culture of “jobs at any cost”, after the International Labour Organisation (ILO) highlighted the proportion of working young people at risk of poverty.

The ILO said in a report that Europeans between 18 and 24 years old did not suffer from high unemployment, but many still faced "relative poverty" because the jobs they took on were comparatively badly paid.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“In developed countries, there is growing evidence over the past couple of decades of a shift in the age distribution of poverty, with youth taking the place of the elderly as the group at greatest risk of living in poverty,” said the report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2016: Trends for Youth.

The ILO, a UN agency, regards workers paid less than 60 percent of the median wage as facing relative poverty.

Among the worst offenders were Romania, where 35 percent of employed youngsters were at risk of relative poverty, Sweden (22 percent), Spain (21 percent) and Greece (20 percent).

The ILO suggested that the problems stemmed from the type of employment on offer, which was often temporary or part time.

“These forms of employment are often associated with lower wages, limited access to training, slow career advancement and lower levels of social protection, all of which combine to undermine youth prospects in the labour market and their income potential,” said the report.

Vicious cycle

The report also showed that many young Europeans were taking jobs that they did not want.

More than one-third of youngsters in the EU in temporary work – jobs that may be full-time but with contracts that are short-term – took their jobs because they could not find permanent employment.

That figure exceeded two-thirds in Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia, Portugal and Spain.

Meanwhile, of those in part-time work, more than 70 percent in Italy and Romania took jobs because of a lack of other opportunities. Greece and Spain both registered more than 60 percent.

“Such high incidence of involuntary part-time employment is closely linked to the fact that youth in this form of employment are more likely to live in poverty despite having a job,” the report said.

Clementine Moyart, a policy officer with the European Youth Forum, said the report's findings showed the limitations of the current approach focusing on getting young people into work without regard to the quality of jobs or contracts.

She said since the 2008 financial crisis, companies rely much more heavily on short-term contracts, often with poor conditions.

“The increase in the risk of poverty and social exclusion is linked to poor quality of contracts – there is no good safety net for young people,” she told EUobserver.

She urged policymakers to think more broadly than youth unemployment and consider other factors such as social exclusion and access to benefits, which are often very difficult for young people to obtain.

“When they lose this contract they don't have anything at all,” she said, trapping them in a "vicious cycle of bad quality employment".

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  2. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  3. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  4. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  5. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  6. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  7. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting
  8. Tusk: 'Concrete' migration proposals in December summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity

Latest News

  1. Wallonia still refuses to buy the Ceta "cat in a bag"
  2. Women shake Poland's pillars of power
  3. Malta, Latvia, and Hungary top EU obesity charts
  4. British PM asserts her role in EU 'nest of doves'
  5. Italy shields Russia from EU sanctions threat
  6. EU and Wallonia still stuck on Canada accord
  7. Dieselgate isn't my fault, says German transport minister
  8. Scotland plans independence vote before Brexit