Alarmist situation of the youth employment in the EU

While the economic crisis has brought about an overall rise in unemployment in member states, the youth unemployment rate is significantly higher in several countries, sometimes reaching dramatic levels. According to August 2011 Eurostat figures, the unemployment rate for young people 15-24 years old is 42.9% in Greece, and as high as 46.2% in Spain (see map above).

The International Labor Organization (ILO) goes one step further in its report “Global Employment Trends for Youth: 2011 Update”, stating that in reality these figures may only reflect one part of the situation of this population. According to the report, the job market remains inaccessible for nearly 20% of young people in Europe. Moreover, the slight improvement observed over the past months (the youth unemployment rate was 21.3% in April 2011) appears to be due to the dissimulation of unemployment figures. For example, the youth unemployment rate in Ireland, which was 27.5% in 2010, could be 19.3 percentage points higher if it included jobless youths “hidden” in the education system or those waiting for more favorable circumstances to look for work.

Furthermore, young people aged 15 to 24 are the category most affected by long-term unemployment. An ever greater percentage of those who manage to find employment work in part-time or temporary positions (+17% in Ireland from 2007 to 2010, +10.5% in Iceland, +8.8% in Spain). Overall, the scarcity of job openings and prevailing job insecurity offer little hope for better prospects in the near future.

The ILO does not mince words when speaking of a “lost generation”: “These new statistics reflect the frustration and anger that millions of youths around the world are feeling”, declared José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the ILO employment sector. Frustration and anger that go far in explaining the “Indignant” movement affecting Europe and the United States.

The report finishes by outlining a series of policy measures aimed at promoting youth employment. Among these recommendations: developing an integrated strategy for growth and job creation focused on young people, improving the quality of jobs by strengthening labor standards, investing in the quality of education and training, and especially pursuing financial and macroeconomic policies that aim to remove obstacles to economic recovery.