Eurozone cannot endure any longer youth marginalisation

Androulla Vassiliou Member of the EC in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth (speaking on the microphone), participated in the Summit on Skills and Education, 'Saving Europe's Lost Generation', organised by the Friends of Europe. (from left to right) Frank Vandenbroucke, Professor at the Research Centre of Public Economics at KU Leuven Androulla Vassiliou, Giles Merrit, Secretary-General of Friends of Europe, Karen Coleman, journalist and broadcaster for the Irish Independent newspaper, Massimiliano Mascherini, Research Manager at Eurofoundand Andrea Gerosa founder of ThinkYoung. (EC Audiovisual Services, 15/05/2013).

Androulla Vassiliou Member of the EC in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth (speaking on the microphone), participated in the Summit on Skills and Education, ‘Saving Europe’s Lost Generation’, organised by the Friends of Europe. (from left to right) Frank Vandenbroucke, Professor at the Research Centre of Public Economics at KU Leuven, Androulla Vassiliou, Giles Merrit, Secretary-General of Friends of Europe, Karen Coleman, journalist and broadcaster for the Irish Independent newspaper, Massimiliano Mascherini, Research Manager at Eurofoundand Andrea Gerosa founder of ThinkYoung. (EC Audiovisual Services, 15/05/2013).

The 3239th EU Council meeting was devoted to Education, Youth, Culture and Sport and as usually the Presidency, this semester held by Ireland, very happily presided over it. The Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D. said “I am particularly pleased that we have adopted these Conclusions today. There are still too many capable students not participating in higher education due to their socio-economic circumstances, insufficient systems of support and guidance, and other obstacles”.

Yet all those thousands of Council meetings have proved at least irrelevant for the millions of youths in south Europe, Ireland and elsewhere in the European Union, nor they protected the young from being unemployed. According to Eurostat, the EU statistical service “In March 2013, 5.690 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU27, of whom 3.599 million were in the euro area. Compared with March 2012, youth unemployment rose by 177,000 in the EU27 and by 184,000 in the euro area. In March 2013, the youth unemployment rate was 23.5% in the EU27 and 24% in the euro area, compared with 22.6% and 22.5% respectively in March 2012. In March 2013, the lowest rates were observed in Germany and Austria (both 7.6%) and the Netherlands (10.5%), and the highest in Greece (59.1% in January 2013), Spain (55.9%), Italy (38.4%) and Portugal (38.3%)”.

Higher education for what?

Apart from the fact that during the last two decades access to higher education has become more inequitable after the successive increases of fees, the unemployment prospects after a post-secondary course or a university degree have undermined the motives for taking up more schooling. As for the low youth unemployment percentages in Germany and Austria, they do not represent quality employment for the young to rely upon or support a family and a home. It is the so-called ‘petty jobs’ and training programmes which hold down youth unemployment percentages in the core EU countries, without prospects for a life-long engagement in the productive sector.

It is even more discouraging to observe that the long-term economic horizon in Eurozone and the EU as a whole doesn’t offer future prospects for better conditions in the labour market, especially for the young. As for the political leadership’s policy proposals to mend this tragic situation, Chancellor Merkel’s solution cannot be taken seriously. She recently said that “the right solution for the unemployed youths of the South is to travel and look for a job in Germany”. On that occasion the European Sting writer, Suzan A. Kane, wondered if Germany is preparing ‘youth correction camps’ for disillusioned youths from the south.

With the current crisis plaguing Eurozone’s south for almost five years now the youths who couldn’t find a job at their 20s are now in their early 30s. It is not an exaggeration that this crisis has already claimed one generation. The disillusionment stemming from the unsuccessful attempts to integrate in the productive world is indelibly marking the young souls. The fact that this phenomenon is not restricted to the edges of society but has become the standard condition for millions of young people, has already created a kind of new social class of ‘outsiders’, without however the old stigma of exclusion.

Social dead ends

In this way southern and other societies and families are becoming ‘addicted’ to the non- productive occupation of their young and on many occasions they support this situation. Unfortunately this new social class of unemployed youths is available to all kinds of exploitation and prone to adopting misleading and antisocial ideologies and behaviour. In this way the southern countries’ growth prospect is undermined for the long-term, because in this manner there will be a gap in the secession of labour market cohorts. Disillusioned and long-time unemployed youths become reluctant adults, almost unable to adapt to productive work discipline.

On the political level this unseen before social conjuncture has already changed the spectrum of representation in legislative bodies. In Greece and Italy it was mainly young voters who sent to Parliaments people coming from outside the socially acceptable spectrum of political ideologies or expressing quite extreme right of left inclinations (Grillo’s nihilism in Italy and the extreme right, almost fascist, Golden Down party in Greece).

These countries are gradually consuming their political and social reserves. If the same conditions continue for another two or three years the outcome will be probably irreversible, at least for mercurial societies like Greece and Italy. The political and social formations which will emerge in the forefront will be a surprise for everybody in the western world. If the German political elite cannot understand that then someone has to teach them. Brussels, Paris and Rome are already doing a good job on that.

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