Documents considered by the Committee on 20 October 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

8 Youth on the Move




COM(10) 477

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COM(10) 478

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+ ADDs 2-3

Commission Communication: Youth on the Move: An initiative to unleash the potential of young people to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the European Union

Commission Staff Working Document: A guide to the rights of mobile students in the European Union

Council Recommendation: Youth on the Move: promoting the learning mobility of young people

Commission Staff Working Document — results of consultation on the Green Paper on the learning mobility of young people

Commission Staff Working Documents: Impact assessment and summary

Legal base(a)  —

(b)  Articles 165 and 166 TFEU; co-decision; QMV

Document originated15 September 2010
Deposited in Parliament22 September 2010
DepartmentBusiness, Innovation and Skills
Basis of considerationEM of 6 October 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council19 November 2010
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


8.1 In June 2010, the European Council agreed a new European Strategy for Jobs and Growth (the "Europe 2020 Strategy") and identified five "headline targets" to guide Member States and the European Union in their efforts to promote employment and green growth, encourage innovation, research and development, improve levels of educational attainment and reduce poverty. Two of the headline targets are particularly relevant to young people:

  • "improving education levels, in particular by aiming to reduce school drop-out rates to less than 10% and by increasing the share of 30-34 year olds having completed tertiary or equivalent education to at least 40%; and
  • "aiming to raise to 75% the employment rate for women and men aged 20-64, including through the greater participation of young people, older workers and low-skilled workers and the better integration of legal migrants."[20]

8.2 In its Communication on the Europe 2020 Strategy, the Commission proposed seven new "flagship initiatives", including one entitled "Youth on the Move" which seeks to identify a number of actions at EU and national level to enhance the performance of education systems, improve the quality of education and training across the EU, promote mobility, and facilitate the entry of young people to the labour market.[21]

The Commission Communication

8.3 In its latest Communication, the Commission fleshes out the actions it envisages to take forward its flagship initiative, Youth on the Move. According to the Commission, action is needed because youth unemployment is unacceptably high (averaging almost 21% across the EU for those under 25) and too many young people leave school early, resulting in skills shortages (especially in the IT sector) and an inability to compete for jobs requiring high-level qualifications. Youth on the Move seeks to put "young people at the centre of the EU's agenda to create an economy based on knowledge, research and innovation, high levels of education and skills in line with labour market needs, adaptability and creativity, inclusive labour markets and active participation in society."[22]

8.4 The Commission proposes a variety of actions, summarised below under four main headings:

8.5 Promoting lifelong learning by increasing investment in education and training, reducing school drop-out rates, improving early years education, and strengthening the links between employers and the education sector (including through work experience, apprenticeships, vocational training and careers advice). Specific actions proposed include:

  • two Council Recommendations, the first (in 2010) to provide a framework for measures to reduce school drop-out rates, and the second (in 2011) to promote the recognition and validation of skills acquired outside formal learning structures, such as volunteering and youth work;
  • establishment of a high-level expert group on literacy to share and develop best practice on improving literacy among adults and children;
  • strengthened co-operation in the field of vocational education and training; and
  • measures to improve the quality and availability of traineeships.

8.6 Increasing the rate of participation in higher education by investing in universities, diversifying sources of funding, strengthening co-operation on quality assurance and building "knowledge partnerships" to encourage research and innovation. Specific actions proposed for 2011 include:

  • a further Communication setting out a new agenda for reforming higher education to make it more accessible, to strengthen links between academia and industry and to make graduates more employable;
  • publication of a feasibility study on the establishment of an alternative university ranking system to provide a more complete picture of performance based on a broader range of performance indicators; and
  • a proposal for a multiannual Strategic Innovation Agenda to develop the role of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology[23] in promoting research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

8.7 Encouraging learning and employment mobility by providing opportunities for all young people to study, train or work abroad by 2020. Specific actions proposed include:

  • a new Youth on the Move website to provide information on opportunities to study or gain work experience abroad;
  • a Council Recommendation to remove obstacles to, and promote, learning mobility;[24]
  • a Youth on the Move card to provide benefits and discounts for young people;
  • a European Skills Passport to record and encourage recognition of skills acquired in different EU countries;
  • a pilot project ("Your first EURES job") to provide advice, recruitment and financial support to young jobseekers willing to work abroad and to SMEs keen to recruit mobile workers; and
  • a European Vacancy Monitor to record job vacancies across the EU.

8.8 Improving opportunities for youth employment by ensuring more young people stay in further education or undertake training and providing active support to gain entry to the labour market. Specific actions proposed include:

  • encouraging use of the Commission's new European Progress Micro-finance Facility[25] to support potential young entrepreneurs;
  • measures to make better use of the European Social Fund to support young people;
  • examining the feasibility of creating an EU student loan facility, in co-operation with the European Investment Bank, to support students wishing to train or study abroad; and
  • an analysis of factors affecting labour market outcomes for young people, especially the impact of successive short-term temporary contracts on wage levels, pensions and training opportunities.

8.9 The Commission urges Member States to introduce a "Youth Guarantee" to ensure that young people enter higher education or have a job or work experience within four months of leaving school. The Commission says that Member States should also provide an adequate social safety net for young people, through access to targeted benefits which are conditional on seeking employment or training. Other suggestions include the introduction of a minimum income for young people combined with incentives for employers to make the use of permanent, rather than temporary, contracts more attractive.

8.10 The Commission indicates that the Youth on the Move initiative will be funded from existing EU programmes for education and training and that greater use should be made of the European Social Fund. Additional sources of funding may be needed if the idea of creating an EU student loan facility is pursued further.

The draft Council Recommendation

8.11 The draft Recommendation forms part of the Youth on the Move initiative. It draws on responses to a Commission Green Paper on Learning Mobility (2009) which, according to the Commission, "revealed a clear consensus . . . . . on the objective of expanding mobility opportunities for young people"[26] while also recognising that obstacles remained. The purpose of the draft Recommendation is to provide specific guidance to Member States on the removal of remaining obstacles to learning mobility and on fostering a "mobility culture" amongst all young people. Recommendations to Member States include:

  • raising awareness about the opportunities for learning abroad through better information and advice, including on grants and funding;
  • promoting the value of learning mobility in terms of personal and professional development and future employability;
  • facilitating mobility by, for example, recognising the importance of language learning in the school curriculum;
  • removing legal, institutional and administrative obstacles to learning abroad;
  • ensuring that educational grants and loans can be used for learning abroad;
  • introducing quality assurance schemes for mobile learning;
  • improving procedures for recognising and validating periods of learning abroad;
  • providing specially targeted information and intervention (mobilising teachers, youth workers, etc) for disadvantaged learners;
  • encouraging mobility partnerships, especially between the education and business sector, and providing incentives (for example, special grants to business) to offer places for trainees, interns or apprentices;
  • using "multipliers" — teachers, trainers and youth workers — to promote mobility; and
  • establishing a "Mobility Scoreboard" to monitor progress in removing obstacles to mobility.

8.12 In addition, the draft Recommendation "takes note" of a number of actions to be taken by the Commission in line with its Communication. For example, the Commission will review existing EU education, training and youth programmes with a view to developing an integrated approach under the next Financial Framework (2014-20) to support the Youth on the Move Strategy.

8.13 The legal bases proposed for the draft Recommendation are Articles 165 and 166 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which enable the Council to adopt (non-binding) recommendations to encourage youth exchanges and the mobility of teachers, students, instructors and trainees.

The Government's view

8.14 The Minister of State for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts) notes that the Communication and draft Recommendation are linked to the Europe 2020 Strategy and focus on non-binding measures, such as target-setting, reports and recommendations, which allow Member States to determine what action to take in light of their own circumstances. He continues:

"Although the initiative does not indicate a direct increase of EU competence, it does represent an extension of reach and influence ... The Government would not accept any prescriptive action at European level in the areas covered, for example in the proposed 'Youth Guarantee', or in the proposed Recommendation on reducing early school leaving or in removing obstacles to learning abroad".

8.15 The Minister expresses the Government's support for the modernisation of higher education systems across Europe, but questions the need for a new EU agenda for reform before existing EU initiatives have been evaluated. He indicates that the Government does not consider the Commission's proposal to develop a new university ranking system to be a priority. The Minister says that many of the ideas concerning youth employment, such as the micro-finance facility, the skills passport, the Youth on the Move card, and a possible student loan facility for mobile learners will require separate proposals which will be subject to scrutiny.

8.16 The Government supports the main points in the draft Council Recommendation on promoting learning mobility, including the emphasis on achieving "quality outcomes", but "would be unwilling to make changes to present policies if this would result in greater costs to the UK of funding young people abroad". The Minister explains that financial support is available for students studying abroad as part of their UK higher education course, but that "there are no current plans to extend the provision of financial support to students wishing to undertake study solely at European institutions". The Government would, however, continue to review the potential for introducing such provision.

8.17 While supporting the focus on young people's access to the job market through better education, training and mobility, the Government also emphasises the importance it attaches to adult education so that older learners can continue to improve their skills and employment prospects.


8.18 The Youth on the Move initiative is intended to proceed in parallel with the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Jobs and Growth. The EU, however, has limited competence in the field of education and vocational training under Articles 165 and 166 TFEU, which specify that any EU measures must "support and supplement the action of Member States". As a result, the Communication and draft Recommendation seek to mobilise the efforts of Member States and a range of other actors — teachers, trainers, youth workers, businesses — to support the goal of promoting learning mobility. The broad scope of the Commission's Communication makes it difficult to discern where the boundary between EU and national action lies. It is not clear what locus the EU has on a number of ideas contained within the Communication, such as school drop-out rates, developing a new university ranking system, or determining the content of the "Youth Guarantee". Nor is it clear how some of these ideas will contribute to learning mobility.

8.19 We note that many of the ideas in the Communication will be the subject of separate scrutiny, at which point we will seek assurances from the Government that any proposed action at EU level remains within the powers conferred on the EU under Articles 165 and 166 TFEU. Meanwhile, we are content to clear the Communication and draft Recommendation from scrutiny.

20   See European Council Conclusions of 17 June 2010 on the Europe 2020 Strategy at Back

21   See Commission Communication on Europe 2020 at Back

22   Paragraph 9 of the Commission Communication. Back

23   The European Institute of Innovation and Technology was established in 2008 to encourage innovation by developing partnerships between higher education and research organisations and industry.  Back

24   The Commission defines learning mobility as transnational mobility for the purpose of acquiring new skills.  Back

25   The Facility was established in March 2010 to facilitate access to microfinance and has a budget of €100 million for the period 2010-2013.  Back

26   See 13729/10, ADD 1, paragraph 1. Back

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