Inside Story

Europe's lost generation

How can European leaders tackle the continent's worsening youth unemployment crisis?

Last updated: 13 Nov 2013 11:12
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French President Francois Hollande has warned that the "future of a generation is at stake" as European leaders face up to the crisis of youth unemployment.

There is no single magic solution to the problem, but what we do want is that all member states put in place structural reforms to tackle the problem for the future. And that consists of making sure that within four months a young person becoming unemployed or leaving school, that they either get a quality offer of a job or else they get guidance as regards [to] training or further education or an apprenticeship which will help them to acquire the skills to boost their chances of getting a job for the future.

Jonathan Todd, a European Commission spokesman

Hollande was hosting a summit in Paris where leaders met for the fourth time in six months to hammer out how to reverse the upward trend.

Germany has described youth unemployment as the "most pressing problem facing the continent," and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the continent risked creating a "lost generation."

Economists maintain this is a consequence of the financial crisis, that young people always suffer in recessions, employers stop hiring them, and new recruits are easy to let go.

On average, one in four young people is without a job, and in the worst affected countries it is more than half.

More than 5,5 million people under 25 are out of work, that represents almost a quarter of all young people.
Greece has the highest rate, running at 57.3 percent; it is followed by Spain at 56.5 percent, while Italy's young jobless rate is 40 percent. That is in sharp contrast to Germany, where less than eight percent of young people are unemployed.

European leaders have been discussing a range of measures to bring these figures down, including the Youth Employment Initiative, which was approved at an EU summit in Brussels in June.

This requires that all young people up to the age of 25 receive an offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

The initial budget has been set at $8bn with the project due to start in January and it will be rolled out in countries where youth unemployment is above 25 percent.

But is there the will, or the sufficient resources to find work for millions of young people? And will the Youth Employment Initiative succeed? 

Inside Story, with presenter Sue Turton, is joined by guests: Jonathan Todd, the European Commission spokesman; Evgenia Bosmi, a student from Greece, who has been looking for a job for the past two years; Joe Haslam, an associate professor at the IE business school, and executive director of the owners and entrepreneurs management programme; and Albert Tucker, a trustee of Common Purpose, an organisation that helps prepare young people for the workplace.

"[It] is really difficult here in Greece ... we can't find work, we are not more than 25 years old, and we don't have the opportunity to gain our money, our parents have to support us on the basic needs ... we have things to offer to the country, but there are no opportunities."

- Evgenia Bosmi, a student from Greece


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