Youth unemployment is and remains a top priority at EU level. The EU has been working relentlessly to help young people. I believe there are two sides of the same coin to tackle the challenge: the policy and the financial support to help young people looking for a job.
With the Youth Employment Initiative, we have made 8.8 billion euro available to target those who are not in education, employment or training in the regions with a 25% unemployment rate. My first action as a Commissioner was to release 30% of the Youth Employment Initiative resources directly as advance payments to the Member States. Back in 2014, many Member States were struggling to ensure sufficient financial liquidity to help young people. Only a few Member States had fully set up their implementation structures to benefit from this dedicated funding.
With the funding, we support Member States to implement the Youth Guarantee. With this measure, every person under 25 should receive a good quality education, apprenticeship or traineeship, or offer of employment within 4 months of becoming unemployed.
These efforts are bearing fruits now. Since the launch of the Youth Guarantee, around 11 million young people have received an offer. The Youth Employment Initiative has directly helped at least 1.7 million young people to receive a job, training or a further education opportunity.
In parallel, we observe a strong decrease of youth unemployment rate, from a peak of 24 % in January 2013 to 16.2 % in November 2017.There are now 2 million fewer young unemployed in the EU and 1 million fewer youths who are not in employment, education or training.
I believe that the combination of the Youth Guarantee and our European funding plays its share in this remarkable improvement. Together, they have created new opportunities for young people and acted as a powerful driver for reforms in all Member states.
This doesn’t mean our work should stop here. Youth unemployment is still far too high in many Member States – from 5% in Czech Republic to around 39% in Greece and Spain. Inactivity among young people, as well as untapped potential, remains a reality across the European Union. Not all young people have benefitted equally from these initiatives.
That’s why we will further concentrate on stepping up our efforts to reach out to and support the low skilled and those with fewer opportunities. And we have to expand the pool of good-quality offers. We need to ensure that the offers really help young people set a solid foothold in the labour market.
We must keep up our political commitment to youth employment. From the Commission’s side, we want to continue supporting Member States, and particularly the hardest hit regions. Youth in Europe needs to stay a fundamental priority for us. I will continue to do everything I can to give each and every young person in the EU the opportunities they deserve.
Marianne Thyssen is European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility