Implementation of the Youth Guarantee: Satisfactory or lacking progress?

MEPs yesterday debated on the implemenation of the EU's Youth Employment Initiative. 

By Hendrik Meerkamp

18 Sep 2014

On September 17, the European Parliament held a debate on the roll-out of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the implementation of the Youth Guarantee in the Member States, which, according to a number of politicians, has been deficient so far. For the discussion, the European Parliament welcomed Benedetto della Vedova, representative of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, as well as László Andor, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Please find below the main points covered during the first part of the debate. Please note that this document does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

Benedetto della Vedova, representative of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, began by acknowledging that the situation with regards to youth unemployment in the EU is serious and that unemployment and inactivity among young has unacceptably high costs, both on the social and on the economic side.

He stressed that huge political efforts have already been made in numerous Member States to address the situation and welcomed the EU’s pledge to initiate the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and fund it with 6bn EUR, saying that this money is vital to allow for an efficient implementation on the ground of youth employment measures by the Member States such as the EU Youth Guarantee.

Mr della Vedova went on to declare that, consequently, national administrations in Member States showed, generally, a high commitment in the submission of Youth Guarantee implementation plans in order to receive EU YEI funding. [Note that the European Commission must evaluate and approve of these plans before Member States can receive YEI funds]. He assured that the Council of Ministers monitors closely the implementation of the national plans in the Member States. At the same time, he admitted that a lot remains to be done.

Mr della Vedova then assured that the Council also closely follows the contributions made by the European Parliament on the Youth Guarantee and the YEI more generally, referring in particular to the European Parliament’s resolution on youth employment of July 2014. He expressed his agreement with the European Parliament’s views brought forward in this resolution especially in matters relating to efforts necessary to further reform education, apprenticeship and training systems in the Member States and to the boosting of skills development measures.

After assuring that the Italian Council of Ministers Presidency has put youth employment on the top of its agenda, Mr della Vedova concluded by highlighting that the EU must help the Member States to have effective youth employment solutions tailored to their individual situations and called all actors to join forces to this end.

The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, delivered an update on the state of play of the YEI’s available and already spent funds and on the implementation to date by the Member States, depicting the YEI as an important and so far largely successful instrument to fight youth unemployment but also stressing the problem of continued high youth unemployment in the EU and the need to complement the YEI with broader structural economic and labour market reforms in order for it to be effective. Please follow this link to read Mr Andor’s full statement.

David Casa (EPP, MT) stated that the YEI has the potential to be an important tool to break the negative cycle of economic downturn and youth unemployment that many Member States are currently experiencing but expressed his regrets that only relatively little use has been made of the available funds by the Member States. In this context, he urged the Member States to implement all available resources in the best possible manner.

Jutta Steinruck (S&D, DE) declared that the core of the problem that Mr Casa hinted at is that many Member States have difficulties to overcome co-financing problems [matching up, as prescribed by the YEI programme, the only partial EU YEI funding with mandatory own spending]. She also called for simplified funding procedures and for a thorough evaluation of the currently ongoing Youth Guarantee pilot projects, in particular in matters of how funds can be best spent in-situ. She concluded by calling for broader measures to make the Youth Guarantee successful, such as more investments in economic growth, more solidarity with the so-called crisis countries, and adequate funding for the Youth Guarantee beyond 2015.

Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK) said the causes of high youth unemployment often differ across Member States and that therefore any EU-wide one-size-fits-all approach to tackling the problem is wrong. In this context, she declared that, instead, the EU must help to share ideas and best practices that it finds across the Member States of how to bring down youth unemployment. She added that SMEs must be encouraged and enabled to employ the young, and that youngsters must moreover be stimulated to create own businesses and become entrepreneurs themselves so that they can then in turn employ workers themselves, too.

Ms McIntyre concluded by stressing that a main concern related to high youth unemployment in the long-term is a skills shortage in Europe especially in the fields of ICT, science, maths, and engineering.

Martina Dlabajová (ALDE, CZ) stressed that labour mobility in the EU must be enhanced if unemployment is to be brought down in certain Member States, and that, moreover, boosting vocational education and training (VET) and lifelong learning measures is important to provide the domestic economies with a more qualified – and thus employable – labour force. She stressed that it must be ensured that labour mobility measures always take place on a voluntary basis and in the absence of social dumping.

Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL, PT) complained that the youth employment-related problems have remained the same for the last years and that young people still have no prospects or face precarious work relationships with low wages while companies take advantage of this. In this context, she called for measures to ensure proper jobs with real rights for workers.

Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR) called on the European Commission to show more ambition to reduce unemployment among young people. She argued that the YEI must be mobilised in a better way and that more investments must be triggered to support youth employment measures.

Jane Collins (EFDD, UK) stated that it is the EU that is failing the youth of today, making it harder and harder for them to find jobs. She announced that the Youth Guarantee will fail because the International Labour Organisation (ILO) itself calculated that it would take about 21bn EUR to make it effective while the EU and the Member States are making much less available. She added that, moreover, the “elephant in the room” is immigration, with young people in the UK often not standing a chance on the labour market because they compete against a large workforce coming over from the EU.

She concluded by saying that excessive bureaucracy and red tape and high taxation for SMEs are other main reasons for continued high unemployment because these factors mean that SMEs are struggling and cannot employ younger workers. 


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