Prevent future crises and empower youth – now!

European Youth Insights is a platform provided by the European Youth Forum and the European Sting, to allow young people to air their views on issues that matter to them. Written by Leonie Martin & Angelika Schenk, JEF Europe

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The financial crisis has hit the young generation exceptionally hard: whilst an average of 10.2 percent of the whole population across EU member states had been unemployed in June 2014, the rate of young people less than 25 years old was twice as high, peaking at 22.0 percent during the same month. Statistically, this means that more than every fifth young person is without employment, leaving the “next” generation with fewer opportunities to develop themselves on a career and on a personal level. The latest Eurofound policy brief indicates the social and also political implications of youth unemployment with a lower subjective well-being and decreasing trust in institutions. If we link this together with decreasing electoral turnouts and an uprise of right-wing populist parties across Europe, the dramatic possible long-term impact becomes clear.

We do not want to live in a Europe in which we have to fight back the rights that the generation of our grandparents have fought for 70 years ago. We need to think ahead and prevent future crises; we need to empower the youth. And to do so, our generation needs to create opportunities ourselves. This is a big challenge that we cannot only fight for ourselves: we need politicians and other decision-makers to take our side. We need Europe to think ahead to empower young people.

Therefore, more than 30.000 members of the pan-European youth NGO Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe which acts above any partylines have adopted a resolution that outlines seven crucial policy proposals.

First of all, our goal is to strengthen the mobility of young people across Europe by, inter alia, mutually recognizing qualifications more quickly via increased efficiency in respective administrative procedures. Also, we support greater teaching of foreign languages as linguistic diversity is a characteristic of the European identity that, unfortunately, still constitutes an obstacle to cross-border mobility of those less well equipped with linguistic skills. In the course of these measures, we also want to remind decision-makers of giving better possibilities to young people to study, volunteer and work across Europe.

As a second point, we urge politicians to re-consider the introduction of vocational training schemes, for instance by institutionalising cooperation between business associations and trade unions as well as universities and other institutions of vocational training. This should aim at facilitating the creation of training profiles targeted at economic needs so that young people do not risk unemployment subsequent to the completion of formal education. Also, these measures should include the option of joint vocational training programmes across European borders as well as engaging in best-practice schemes to learn from neighbouring regions.

Third, we want to promote the issue of youth entrepreneurship through developing young people’s entrepreneurial skills through courses and support initiatives, not limited to those attending universities but across all kinds of education institutions. Herein, we particularly want to stress that administrative burdens for business creation need to be reduced and finance and funding for setting up one’s own business as a young person also requires improvement.

Our forth concerns regards the fact that young people have on average a higher risk of being employed in the secondary labour market, for instance as interns or trainees, on a long-term perspective without finding a job in the first ‘normal’ labour market despite being highly qualified. Therefore, we urge for several initiatives, including that unpaid internships longer than three months should be forbidden, and that the European Commission strives for facilitating the implementation of the Youth Guarantee so that more than those young people in so far only few countries – Italy and France – can actually profit from this funding.

Moreover, fifth, we recommend a wider access to mentoring programmes which should help young people during the transition between different strands of education and particularly also between education and employment. Good examples of such initiatives include the German ones ‘Arbeiterkind’ and ‘Rock your life’.

Sixth, we also consider it vital to evaluate measures that could strengthen the cooperation between generations – solutions that could both alleviate the burdens of a young generation struggling to get a head start into employment and an increasingly ageing society in all European countries. Such initiatives could include, inter alia, multiple generation houses where people of different ages live together and support each other in their lives.

Finally but also very importantly, we want call decision-makers to reconsider policies on reducing the macro-economic imbalances across Europe as long-term solution to prevent imbalanced youth unemployment rates. All in all, we think that these seven proposals will be extremely fruitful in fighting exploding youth unemployment rates in Europe and eventually empowering the young generation – which will, last but not least, be the hope for all generations to come.

About the authors

Leonie Martin

Leonie Martin is an LLM candidate European and International Law Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Co-chair Political Commission on Internal European Policy of the NGO ‘JEF Europe’.

Angelika Schenk

Angelika Schenk is a PhD candidate in European Law and Politics at University of Bremen; Chair Political Commission on Internal European Policy of JEF Europe.

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