In its new report on global employment trends for youth, the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued the following warning on 8 March 2020: Steps being taken by governments to slow the spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic will severely hamper young people’s access to the labour market.According to the ILO, young people in particular – who often hold temporary, atypical and poorly paid jobs – are three times more likely to be unemployed, by global comparison, than adults.

Germany will therefore make the fight against youth unemployment in Europe a priority during its Council Presidency, because many young people require advice and support when entering the job market – especially in times of crisis. To reach this goal, the German Presidency will work to strengthen the EU Youth Guarantee, which is an important component of crisis management. The German Presidency wants to use the EU Youth Dialogue to encourage young people throughout Europe to get involved. It also seeks to strengthen youth work programmes through a European Youth Work Agenda.

What is the Youth Guarantee?

The Youth Guarantee was introduced in 2013, in response to the financial crisis. It is the commitment by all EU member states to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 will obtain access to a job, further training opportunity, apprenticeship or internship within four months of becoming unemployed or upon completing their professional training or university studies. Every member state has developed a national plan to implement the Guarantee. To assist regions with particularly high youth unemployment, the EU adopted a new financial instrument in 2013: the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI). For the period 2014 to 2020, YEI supported the Youth Guarantee with initial EU budget funding of 6.4 billion euro. In 2017, the initiative’s budget was increased to 8.8 billion euro. Furthermore, we want to work together with the European Commission and our EU partners to tackle unemployment and youth unemployment in the EU head on on the basis of an effective European Social Fund Plus.

What has been achieved to date?

Five years after the introduction of the Youth Guarantee, the European Commission determined in February 2019 that it has had a largely positive impact. The Guarantee has helped improve the lives of millions of young Europeans. Youth unemployment has decreased from its peak at 24% in 2013 to 14% in 2019. The number of 15 to 24‑year‑olds who are not in training or work fell from 13.2% in 2012 to 10.3% in 2018. Since 2014, more than five million young people have registered annually in Youth Guarantee programmes. Every year, more than 3.5 million young people have taken up a work, further training, internship or professional training offer. As part of the Youth Employment Initiative, more than 2.6 million people in the EU received direct support.

Why should the Youth Guarantee be strengthened?

A good school education and good vocational training are prerequisites for successful integration of young people into the labour market, especially in the long term. It is important that the Youth Guarantee connect with youths at an early stage, and that it give all young people access to career orientation and guidance, as well as recommendations for personal development. This is necessary because unemployment rates for youths are still higher than those for adults, and because they vary greatly from country to country across the EU (see figure). Depending on the region in Europe, they range between 5% and 35%. Moreover, the skills gap is a key problem for young people in the workforce. They therefore need help to develop their abilities, so that they can meet demand in connection with the green and digital transformation of the job market in particular. Young people entering the job market during the COVID‑19 crisis are particularly exposed to the economic effects of the pandemic and therefore need special support. In this context, it is important to ensure that ongoing vocational training can be continued and completed during the pandemic. Also, youths must be able to enrol in new vocational training programmes to ensure a supply of skilled workers during the crisis and especially once it has ended.

Together with the European Commission and its European partners, the German Presidency therefore wants to campaign for an even stronger Youth Guarantee.

How can young people in Europe contribute to these efforts?

Young people have a right to be consulted, also at European level, on decisions that concern them. The beginning of the German Council Presidency also marks the start of a new round of the EU Youth Dialogue, under the heading Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe: Space for Democracy and Participation. As part of the EU Youth Strategy, the EU Youth Dialogue strives to ensure that young people are involved when defining European youth policy.

With the European Youth Work Agenda, the German Presidency seeks to further develop a common understanding of youth work in Europe, despite the various approaches in this field. Later this year, the Third European Youth Work Convention will bring together youth work experts, politicians and scientists to discuss how the Agenda can be implemented.