Europe is at serious risk of losing an entire generation if it does not enforce job creation measures, said a top commission official.
Laszlo Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, warned that around 14 million youths, aged between 16 and 25, are either unemployed or struggling to find a job in the euro zone.
Speaking during a conference on action to tackle the problem of unemployment among youths in Europe, Andor said that if the situation does not improve, “we will lose a generation” (to other emerging markets offering better job prospects).
He recalled that the average rate of unemployment in this age group was 25% in the euro zone and 50% in countries such as Spain and Greece. In Portugal, the youth jobless rate stood at 38.7% in November last year.
The EU commissioner assured that the European Commission was working on a strategy to ease the problem and encourage entrepreneurship (see panel), “as excluding these youths from the labour market represented an annual loss of €150 billion to the European economy”.
Andor also recommended looking at successful employment measures implemented by Austria, Holland, Finland and Germany, where investment in education and professional training was a priority to ensure easier access to the labour market and boost entrepreneurship.
In the case of Austria and Finland, youngsters are helped to find employment by the government if they are unsuccessful in their job search after four months of concluding their studies. This is a model that the EU intends to transpose to other member states.
Andor believes promoting employment mobility in Europe is also important. “Youngsters should be able to consider Germany or Denmark for jobs,” he said.
||What is the EU doing?
Europe needs to coordinate growth and job creation efforts and address rising social inequality.
Five years into an economic crisis, the EU is again in recession, leaving around 26 million without work.
Countries in southern and eastern Europe have been hit particularly hard, according to the Commission’s report Employment & Social Developments in Europe 2012.
The report shows which of the measures to help those most affected by the crisis – including young adults, unemployed women and single mothers – are working.
Workers have a better chance of finding a job in EU countries that have made substantial reforms to their labour markets and welfare systems.
Proposals include investing more efficiently in education and training, and supporting the creation of high-skilled jobs in growth sectors such as the green economy, information and communications technologies, and healthcare.
The Commission plans to help by providing guidance later this year to each EU country on implementing sustainable and effective social support measures.