Youth unemployment in the EU: a scarred generation? - European Union Committee Contents

Youth unemployment in the EU: a scarred generation?

Chapter 1: Introduction

    "I think it is probably the first time, at least since the Second World War, that a new generation faces the future with less confidence than the previous generation." (José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, 2011)[1]

1.  Supporting its citizens into employment has long been one of the key objectives of the EU. The European Social Fund (ESF) was created in the 1957 Treaty of Rome (the EU's founding treaty) and focused on managing the migration of workers within Europe, later moving on to combating unemployment among the young, poorly qualified and socially excluded. In 1963, the EU brought forward a Council Decision which laid down general principles for implementing a common vocational training policy.[2]

2.  Over the last few years, the EU has placed a renewed emphasis on youth unemployment and this is reflected in its policies and rhetoric. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, has referred to the youth unemployment situation as an aspect of the EU's response to the eurozone crisis that "remains especially urgent".[3] Along with other figures in the EU, he has urged Member States to take swift action on the issue of youth unemployment.[4] It is unsurprising that the EU has chosen to focus its efforts on young people in particular: a number of witnesses stressed the scarring effect that unemployment at a young age can have on an individual's future, prospective earning capabilities and pension rights.[5]

3.  It is because of the current focus on youth unemployment at EU and Member State level and its importance for the future of young people that we undertook to conduct an inquiry into the EU's strategy in this area and to consider in more detail the management of the existing and proposed EU funds and initiatives.

4.  Much of the debate about youth unemployment in the EU suggests a link between the peak of the economic crisis in 2008 and the high levels of youth unemployment that have existed since then. However, this report does not seek to make recommendations as to how to solve the economic crisis.[6] It should be remembered that the youth unemployment rate has remained well above that of the overall EU population even in times of economic growth. Our intention in producing this report is to take stock of the EU's overall youth unemployment strategy and to make suggestions as to how the resources available at EU level can best be allocated in order to complement national measures that address this issue. In doing so we have taken account of responses to the immediate issues as well as longer-term measures to reduce the high youth unemployment rate.

5.  Chapter 2 addresses the current unemployment situation in the EU and in the UK. Chapter 3 outlines the current and proposed initiatives that the EU has put forward in this area. Chapter 4 evaluates the current workings of EU funds and measures to reduce youth unemployment at UK level and considers how these funds can be coordinated to make best use of the additional money available. Chapters 5 and 6 look at how EU funds can be used to stimulate the supply side of the labour market (helping young people into work) and the demand side (opening up the job market to young people). Chapter 7 considers how examples of good practice can feed into the development of youth unemployment policy at EU level.

6.  In addition to the evidence and witness statements from a wide range of stakeholders, we sought the views of young people who were able to reflect on their experience of accessing the labour market. Their views are referred to throughout. We are grateful to the Prince's Trust's centre in Liverpool and to Birmingham City Council and its partners for facilitating meetings with young people from the local area, who shared with us their views and experiences. Chapter 8 pulls together the views of young people and other stakeholders to assess the extent to which young people are involved in policy-making and the impact of their involvement.

Our inquiry

7.  We are grateful for the written and oral evidence that we received for our inquiry. All the witnesses who provided evidence are listed in Appendix 2. We are particularly grateful to all those who gave evidence in person. Our thanks also go to John Bell, Senior Partner at CurvedThinking, our Specialist Adviser for this inquiry. His relevant interests are listed in Appendix 1.

8.  The Call for evidence we issued is shown in Appendix 3 and the evidence we received is published on the Committee's website.[7]

9.  We make this report to the House for debate.

1   European Commission , Statement by President Barroso, 17 May 2011, available at:  Back

2   Council Decision No. 63/266/EEC Back

3   European Commission , Statement by President Barroso, 14 January 2014, available at: Back

4   European Commission , Statement by President Barroso, 10 January 2014, available at: Back

5   Q 93; Q 22; Q 105; Q 154; Professor Melanie Simms; Max Uebe, European Commission  Back

6   European Union Committee, Euro area crisis: an update (11th Report, Session 2013-14, HL Paper 163) considers the economic crisis in more detail.  Back

7   Evidence published online is available at: Back

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