As Jean-Claude Juncker prepares to deliver his State of the Union address tomorrow, the European Youth Forum highlights the gap between his rhetoric when taking up office and the lack of strong enough action. The European Commission needs to do far more when it comes to tackling the problems affecting young people, in particular youth unemployment and in addressing poverty and social exclusion should be given a higher priority when the Commission enters its second year of its mandate.
Over a year ago, the European Commission President addressed the European Parliament and talked about Europe’s “last chance”. He referred to a 29th member-state of young unemployed and he said that “this will be the last‑chance Commission…Either we manage to give young Europeans genuine prospects again, or we will have failed.” The gap between the President’s words and the reality is still wide and Europe’s young unemployed have yet to see substantial proposals.
Youth unemployment has remained stubbornly above 20% since Junker and his team took over last year: over five million young Europeans are still not in work. Whilst the European Commission has announced the front-loading of the release of funds for the Youth Unemployment Initiative, it needs to be remembered that this is not new nor increased funding. Furthermore, the Strategic Investment Plan is also devoid of a strong enough social aspect, with no clear priorities given to projects with a social dimension. Such projects could help young people in a time when they are the most likely age group to face poverty.
Initiatives, such as the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative, have been slow to catch on and their benefits have not so far reached young people. Despite small decreases in average unemployment rates, progress has been extremely patchy from country to country. Long-term unemployment is still on the increase, especially among young people. The cost of youth unemployment is both social and economic, blighting young people’s lives and, should it not be tackled by the end of Juncker’s mandate, it will eventually cost the European Union over 600 billion euros.
Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, comments:
“The fact that one in five young Europeans do not have a job indicates the precarious state of Europe for its younger citizens. Even though President Juncker highlighted youth and youth unemployment one year ago, the actions we have seen up until now are not enough. We call for sincere and concrete action to fight youth unemployment in Europe! We look forward to hearing President Juncker’s State of the Union address, but we hope that after it, the attention will turn from rhetoric to real solutions for young people, such as tackling youth unemployment, giving young people full access to their rights and ending age-based discrimination.”