Academic Literature

Youth Unemployment in EU – The crisis has caused a significant increase, but rates vary widely

“There are many reasons for youth unemployment: besides the general situation on the labour market, one might mention education and training systems, labour market and employment policies, but also the stratification and distribution of opportunities in society” write  JOERG BERGSTERMANN AND BJOERN HACKER in  Youth Unemployment in Europe on social-europe.eu. As things stand at the moment, the escalating youth unemployment rates in many European countries can be attributed predominantly to both the global financial and economic crisis of 2007–2010 and its modulation in the ongoing crisis gripping the European Economic and Monetary Union. The policy of unrelenting austerity that has dominated European crisis management thus far can be held responsible for the most recent increase in youth unemployment rates in the abovementioned countries.

In a study for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Dr Hans Dietrich, Senior Researcher on Education and Employment over the Life Course at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg, analyses the background of the phenomenon of youth unemployment in all its economic, social and political aspects. Central to his approach is an empirical examination of the emergence of unemployment among those under 25 years of age in the past decade, the identification of those affected and contextualisation in terms of the economic cycle, demography and employment patterns. Looking at the figures confirms the suspicion that the crisis has caused a significant increase in youth unemployment, but also that rates vary widely within the EU: for example, in Germany, Luxemburg and Malta youth unemployment rates have in fact fallen since 2007, while in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands they are currently at a low of under 10 per cent.

The different points of departure and a host of specific national reasons for the level of youth unemployment make it difficult to come up with a universal European solution. A European emergency programme that makes funding available is very welcome. However, concentrating efforts on greater labour market flexibilisation and improved transnational labour force mobility as the simplest and most widely applicable solution will fall short. The study done by Dietrich drives this home with an analysis of the literature on possible areas in which youth unemployment can be tackled, identifying numerous national best and worst practices.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung would like to explore this approach more deeply and has commissioned 12 country studies on youth unemployment as follow-up to the present analysis. Experts from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the three Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway and Sweden are analysing the country-specific reasons for and risks attached to youth unemployment. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung will publish these studies in early autumn 2012. The goal is to showcase policy recommendations and strategies for overcoming this alarming development, one which for some time now has cast a shadow over the younger generation’s attitude towards European integration.

The Study 

  • The concept of youth unemployment as dealt with in this paper covers the problems encountered by young people below 25 years of age entering the labour market and finding permanent employment.

  • In most European countries youth unemployment has risen significantly as a result of the economic crisis. Compared to youth unemployment, adult unemployment experienced the effects of the crisis with some delay. But in the long run, the recession has affected all age groups. In the 2000s there were significant changes in the pattern of youth unemployment due to gender, citizenship or educational level.
  • The results indicate individual avoidance strategies such as reducing labour market participation (prolonging of or returning to education) or interregional mobility. Reviewing the literature on labour market policy there are no clear and universal solutions for the prevention or reduction of youth unemployment, whether in terms of active labour market policy and labour market institutions or regulation / deregulation. However, national experiences differ in different areas.
  • Individual and familial guidance and counselling on both educational and occupational choices can help young people in their school-to-work transitions and in the labour market. Workers’ associations and unions can also help young people entering the labour market.

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