Unemployment among Europe’s young people has soared by 50% since the financial crisis of 2008. It is rising faster than overall jobless rates, and almost half of young people in work across the EU do not have permanent jobs, according to the European commission.
Three policy papers obtained by the Guardian outline action to create 17.5m jobs in Europe by 2020, but paint a grim picture of prospects for Europe’s youth and underline how the sovereign debt crisis of the last two years has widened the gap between the eurozone’s successful northern core and its failing periphery.
Three out of 10 people currently losing their jobs are under the age of 24, although the young represent only a tenth of the labour force, the commission study says.
There are 5.5 million 15- to 24-year-olds without a job in the EU, a rate of 22.4%, up from 15% in early 2008. But the overall figures mask huge national and regional disparities. While half of young people in Spain and Greece are out of work, in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands it is only one in 10. In a further six EU countries, youth unemployment is around 30%. Of those in work, 44% are on temporary contracts.
“The level of youth unemployment remains very worrying,” says one of the three papers. “Young people who are neither in employment, education or training constitute the most problematic group. In the second quarter of 2011, more than 13% of young people were in this case …
“The increase in the long-term unemployment rate for young people during the crisis was more noticeable than for other age groups … The recent unfavourable developments in unemployment for youth may soon intensify the long-term unemployment issue and have serious social consequences.”
A summit of EU leaders in June is to debate how to tackle Europe’s worsening unemployment levels. But the leaders’ hands are tied by the savage spending cuts of debt-reduction programmes. In advance of the summit, the commission is to unveil proposals aimed at raising employment levels in the EU to 75% by 2020 from 64.5% at the moment. That means generating 17.5m jobs or increasing employment by 0.8% every year.
The commission proposals on Wednesday will single out the green economy, the IT sector, and health and social services struggling to cope with ageing populations as the most promising areas for job creation. In addition the commission is to call for labour market reforms and an opening of the pan-European labour market to facilitate greater worker mobility. But it acknowledges that history, traditions, cultural differences and language all militate against a common EU labour market.
One of the core causes of the euro’s current travails, the loss of competitiveness and soaring debt costs in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, is highlighted as a key reason for the gross divergences in employment patterns.
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