27th Sep 2020

MEPs critical of 'underfunded' youth jobs plan

  • Supporters of the Indignados protest movement in Spain (Photo: Julien Lagarde)

Outgoing EU commissioner for employment Laszlo Andor on Wednesday (17 September) defended EU-wide efforts to tackle youth unemployment amid critical remarks from MEPs.

Andor told deputies that the so-called youth guarantee “is well on track and is already bringing results”.

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He noted many of the programmes in the policy are set for adoption this year. He also said national authorities expected to send the commission “concrete information” by the end of the month on the estimated number of young people who stand to benefit.

Submitting and getting the commission to adopt operational programmes is important because it entitles member states access to EU funding. So far only France and Italy fit the description.

Launched last year, the guarantee is the EU’s response to persistent record high unemployment rates among the under-25s. It aims to find young people work or training within four months after graduation or after being laid off.

“In principle the youth guarantee is a very positive thing for young people, but national leaders lack the political will and ambition to properly implement it,” Allan Pall, secretary general of the Brussels-based European Youth Forum, told this website.

Meanwhile, the jobless trend remains stubborn with one in two youths still unable to land a job in either Greece or in Spain.

Spain (53.8% in July 2014) now has the highest youth unemployment numbers, overtaking cash-strapped Greece (53.1% in May 2014). Italy, Croatia, Portugal, and Cyprus are not far behind.

Overall EU numbers indicate that more than one in five young people still cannot find a job

A separate youth employment initiative has a two-year €6 billion budget to help fund the guarantee. The money is available to member states where youth unemployment tops 25 percent.

But many say it is not enough, noting that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated the cost of setting it up in the eurozone alone to be €21 billion per year.

“By failing to allocate the funds recommended by the ILO, the youth guarantee scheme is a guarantee only on paper,” said Irish left wing MEP Lynn Boylan.

The commission, for its part, says member states can also tap an additional €4 billion from the European Social Fund.

“It’s also important to rely on national resources and combine the European Social Fund,” said the Hungarian commissioner.

The money question was already raised last summer at a youth unemployment summit organised in Berlin where German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of a "lost generation".

But some MEPs blame the current crisis on austerity-imposed policy measures she helped mastermind.

Italy’s 28-year old centre-left MEP Brando Benifei told the assembly the budget slashing focus has made lowering youth unemployment even more challenging.

“It is austerity policies that she [Merkel] is a champion of which actually stopped us acting with more impact, with more effectiveness, on youth employment,” he said.

Centre-right MEPs directed their critical remarks towards some member states for not taking advantage of the initiative.

"It is unfortunate that despite this initiative being in force since last year, its funds have largely not been used,” said centre-right Malta MEP David Casa.

Speaking on behalf of the Italian EU presidency, Italy’s undersecretary for foreign affairs Benedetto Della Vedova said the youth guarantee is only start-up capital for member states and not meant to solve the overall problem.

“We didn’t ever claim that the measures we’ve been discussing today could on their own supply an answer,” he said.

He noted that the “margin for manoeuvre at the European level is fairly restricted” and that the initiative is meant to support and provide recommendations for member states.

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