More than 5.5 million people below the age of 25 are unemployed in the EU right now. That’s a veritable army of young people marching toward a pretty unappealing future, where financial security and dependable employment will be rare (indeed, a Gallup poll we commissioned earlier this year suggests that pessimism about the future for young people in Europe is currently at an all-time high). At a summit of European leaders in Berlin earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called youth unemployment “perhaps the most pressing problem facing Europe at the present time”.

It’s a sign of just how seriously European leaders are taking this problem that, less than six months since the summit in Berlin, another big summit on youth unemployment took place this week hosted in Paris by French President François Hollande. European heads of government and state met with employment and welfare ministers to discuss the best way to spend the 6 billion euros set aside by the EU to fight youth unemployment in 2014 and 2015.

But are these efforts too little, too late? We had a video question sent in by Nastja from Slovenia, who wanted to know if the measures planned by the EU and national governments will really go far enough to tackle the problem of high youth unemployment.

To get a reaction, we spoke earlier this week to Joan Burton, the Irish Minister for Social Protection and a member of the social democratic Labour Party (and you can show your support for Minister Burton – or her critics – in Debating Europe Vote 2014). How would she respond to Nastja?

joan-burtonI think her concerns are understandable, because right throughout Europe we’ve got too many young people who are unemployed and not in education or training… What I can say is that there is an understanding among European leaders – and certainly among the employment ministers and social welfare ministers who deal with it every day – that youth unemployment really is the most important issue facing the EU at the moment… I attended, yesterday, a very large meeting in Paris of employment ministers and the prime ministers and heads of state of countries throughout Europe, and the meeting was really well-attended…

The European Union will produce a plan, and that of course will include costings – which I certainly hope could be a little bit stronger – by the end of this year, and the heads of state will sign-off on it in December. What I would be concerned about is that every country in Europe moves to implement the plan from January 1st onwards. It’s a complex plan, because it involves finding an individual pathway for each young person, which could mean further education, it could mean more training, it could mean in-work experience, or it could be help from employment services, including EURES [the European Employment Service], to find vacancies that are appropriate for the young person.

And, really, from January 1st, everybody involved in both welfare and employment services in Europe is going to have to work hard to implement this plan. What I hope is that, in terms of the funding and the support of the European Commission, there isn’t too much red tape that slows down the implementation of the plan, because, of course, in the past this has been a difficulty. And that was one of the issues discussed very strongly yesterday by the heads of state and by the employment ministers.

We’ve had many comments sent in from readers who blame high youth unemployment on austerity policies undertaken by European governments since the start of the crisis. One commenter, Fer, argued that austerity was making social welfare systems less sustainable, not more.

citizen_icon_180x18099% of the social models in Europe are not sustainable; our pensions, our health systems, our expenditure… So, austerity is just like putting extra petrol into the fire… It wont help, but it will burn quicker…

As the minister responsible for Ireland’s social welfare system, how would Joan Burton respond to these comments?

joan-burtonThe spending by European states on social welfare to people who have lost their jobs, to people who have retired, to people who are on lower income – maybe in work but on low wages – is an enormous spend into each European economy. In most European states, welfare accounts for 25 to 40 per cent of the total spend by governments. Now, if you were to withdraw that spending, the shock to the system and the reduction of the circulation of money into the economies would be really very counter-productive. And, in fact, we’ve seen with countries in the periphery with extreme difficulties, like Greece, that the withdrawal of public employment and the slashing of social welfare benefits has caused a huge contraction in the economy… And we don’t just have European economists saying this, we have Nobel prize-winners in the US like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman saying it.

Here in Ireland, for example, we spend quite a lot of our budget on pensions for older people. But that money spent on pensions in Ireland – or in Greece, Spain or France – is then spent locally by those older people in their local villages, shops and towns, so it really acts to circulate money into the economy.

Does the European welfare model needs reforms? Yes, I do think it does. And I think those reforms carry back into education, because, for instance, in almost every country in Europe now there’s a shortage of people to work both at entry-level, mid-level and at very advanced level in the ICT sector. The same is true in relation to areas like pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and the health services generally. So, we have to have a Social Europe, where the delivery of public services is, in my view, tremendously important – but where we also need to modernise it so it reflects what has happened in a globalised economy.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – truthout

19 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Will the six billion euros set aside by the EU to tackle youth unemployment be enough? Or is it a case of "too little, too late"? Has austerity made European welfare systems more sustainable, or less? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers for their reactions.

  1. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    What will You do, to people that have more than 30 years, which are no longer considered young but have to work until the age of 67 years, and are unemployed. Why do YOU continue to increase the retirement age, causing the reduction of contributors to the social security system, do you think is the solution to the serious problem of unemployment?

  2. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    Unemployment is a product of austerity ,reduced salaries and long work hours.A workweek of 35 hours with proper salary will eliminate umemployment and solve social problems.The rest is politicians efforts to justify their inability and /or serving of market vultures interests.

  3. avatar
    David Eaton

    6 billion euros is far from enough to tackle this issue at a significant level. In member states such as Ireland,Portugal, Greece, and Spain a lot more money will be needed in the investment of young people in particular in the assistance of them finding a sustainable future. This is because a member nation can only do so much and spare so much money for youth and tacking the question of youth unemployment creating a need for increased investment from Europe, this is also required in a handful of some larger member states such as the UK where many young people are trapped by poor pay, expensive education, and very little action by the Governments of the UK in addressing these issues with the notable exception of Scotland.

    Minster Burton is also quite Hypocritical in explaining the need for social protection when her and her government have lowered Job-seekers allowance for the youth by 40% and are in the process of removing medical services from the elder while enhancing the services provided to the children of the rich.

  4. avatar
    David Eade

    If you are under 25 in Spain you are more likely to be jobless than employed. Aid package may be late, but its a positive start!

  5. avatar
    Paul X

    So the EU has got 6 Billion Euros from National governments and is now going to sit around discussing over endless business lunches how to try and help youth unemployment? By the time they make a decision there will probably only be 5.5 billion left
    1) leave the money with those best placed to help the young unemployed of a country, the national governments
    2) Stop the open immigration policy where people from poorer countries go to richer countries and force down the wages in the typical jobs where many young people start their working life. Bar staff, waiters, hotel staff, cashiers…..not the most
    glamerous of jobs but this is where young people used to get a foot on the employment ladder and gain some life experience to go with their qualifications. In the Uk now you cant drink, shop or eat anywhere without being served by an eastern european

    • avatar
      Ivan Penev

      I’m a Bulgarian living and working lately in Germany. I have high education and speak several langueges (my English ist not very good) . Living in Germany was the last thing I dreamt of. But I was forced to do it by your political leaders, which ruined totally my country.
      So are the waiters, bar staff etc in England.
      Be angry to your false leaders.

  6. avatar

    This is the result of now nearly six years of central governments, central banks, EU, IMF etc… policies to ‘bail out the rich’. Policies like QE that have worked wonders for Wall Street and stock market vultures.

    Undeniably, over the last six years, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, unemployment went up and the middle class shrunk. Median wages are also down across the western world.

    Fact remains, there is no recovery, unless you mean the rich and their fortunes. The rich, corporations and banks wanted the Euro because they knew it would help them, and as it should be abundantly clear now, they do not care about anyone else. The Euro was never meant to help ordinary people. Period.

    And now of course, the rich, corporations and banks will do anything to keep their money making scheme (the Euro) alive, at our expense if needed, and it was needed and indeed they did so without hesitation.

    The illusion created behind the Euro, which is what many still seem to feverishly cling to, is that everyone would get to the level of Germany/Netherlands/Finland/Austria.

    Well, this indeed is an illusion, the more integration, the more that Northern Europe would be required to give up in terms of wealth. And since governments routinely already are responsible for 50% or so of all spending, where is the room on top for another 20% to fund fiscal transfers to Club Med?

    That room simply does not exist. Where would Northern European countries have to make the requisite cuts? Pensions? The welfare state? Who is gonna vote for that, no one, that’s who.

    And yet at the same time, without such fiscal transfers, the Euro cannot become sustainable. We’re stuck in a situation of ‘damned if you do damned if you do not’. It has to be done, and yet it cannot be done.

    Central banks and governments are spending the last years frantically papering over the cracks pretending everything is recovering. They keep living in denial about the real measures that would have to be taken to preserve the Euro. And mostly, the peoples are in denial too. The whole western world thinks its disproportional wealth level can be sustained yet fails to realize it requires ever increasing parts of the rest of the world to remain disproportionately poor.

    The Euro was a feel-good idea implemented by people who refused to foresee the inevitable consequences, despite being warned. But those that said it could not function were the naysayers. Who knows a way out of this mess?

  7. avatar

    Here’s how I think the discussion went (about the 6 billion):

    France: it should be spent on projects in France
    Italy: no, projects in Italy
    Greece: no, in Greece
    Spain: no, projects in Spain

    And during intermission, all collectively said: bring more lobster! And charge it to the 6 billion since our tax-exempt salaries are not sufficient.

    At the end of the day: let’s reconvene tomorrow in this same five star hotel, and order more lobster.

    After 4 months of endless debating, the money ran out.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Brilliant analysis, absolutely brilliant.

      PS: Might I addend your analysis by reference to the the prostitutes and rent-boys that quite possibly could have played a part in your exacting story.

  8. avatar
    Spyros Tsakos

    As long as austerity measures are implemented employment measures won’t have the effect that was intended to have as the economy will be in a constant downturn and not in a recovery state, their effectiveness is more than halved and they only give a small boost to part-time employment. We are in a desparate need to resurrect the real economy and the small and middle-sized bussinesses across the EU.

  9. avatar

    I am quite looking forward to the creative and innovative solutions that the political folks will come up with to help anyone that needs a job, to have one. It is time to show some leadership and change the words we use. We do not have a youth unemployment issue as these folks are very creative when it comes to having streams of activites that will bring them some money. Governments just will not be creative with the possible models that dictate what constitutes employment, self-employment, contracting and so on. Allow the young people to develop some very innovate services for thier local communities and they will earn at least the same as they would get from social security – let them keep that money, without being taxed for at least the coming 3 to 5 years until the real job market looks better. We are creative and could develop some easy rules to ensure this does not turn into to cheap office workers and so on…. There are many Apps already to track this work and at least it would be out of the black. There are also many organisations able to provide these young people with a payroll service and billing service for thier clients. You would give the young a chance to develop many new skills, earn money, reduce government expenditure, and develop some strong local communities.

  10. avatar
    Samuel Tandorf

    All it takes is equal opportunity. As long as your treated differently (by officials) just because you’re from a city that happens to be in another EU state, nothing will happen. With different tax ID numbers in each state finding employment etc. is being made more difficult. We need to harmonize the ways we interact with public offices, job centers etc. Social security can only be a centralized system! How can you move from one state to another if basically everything changes!?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Samuel Tandorf

      The EU have tried to harmonize many things in the past and have been found wanting many times.

      Let the EU correct its current attempts at harmonization first BEFORE allowing such a corrupt organisation to advance its powers further.

      No sane person would let someone continue decorating their house after they’ve already wrecked several rooms never mind one!

  11. avatar

    Mrs. Burton, all complex systems fail due whatever you want to call it in relation to space-time constrains. All economic theories are ‘stolen’ identities of rules/principalities/laws as directly as possible derivations of physical concepts. EU as well US fails to understand what is carbon signaling systems. You are in a trap!

  12. avatar
    Milan Iliev

    I don’t understand haw this 6 billion for unemployed young peoples really should reach to them and to be reverse to employment.Usualy such of founds went to administration and lost somewhere else!I would like to mention that there is EU program to be support Art but in fact real art projects were not supported and funded in my country and such of money was absorbed from administration of Bulgarian authority!That made economic too we?k and generated corruption!I hope this time this kind of found to reach right destination and to went for peoples who made real outlet and economic and to be hire young peoples.This step should prevent monopoly in our economic from huge corporation and party and should created new revival in Europe stabilized economic to escape from crisa !!

  13. avatar
    Milan Iliev

    I don’t understand haw this 6 billion for unemployed young peoples really should reach to them and to be reverse to employment.Usualy such of founds went to administration and lost somewhere else!I would like to mention that there is EU program to be support Art but in fact real art projects were not supported and funded in my country and such of money was absorbed from administration of Bulgarian authority!That made economic too we?k and generated corruption!I hope this time this kind of found to reach right destination and to went for peoples who made real outlet and economic and to be hire young peoples.This step should prevent monopoly in our economic from huge corporation and party and should created new revival in Europe stabilized economic to escape from crisa !!

  14. avatar

    Could stronger EU measures help reduce youth unemployment?

    With some efforts it is possible. All it takes is political will and few bankers kept at distance. Some might argue that euro (currency) will go south, but that will happened anyway with or without “Merkel like” strict control and their beehive mentality. Also it’s worth the shoot just to keep the “welfare state” at minimal level possible. Honestly, there could be some side effects coming from “stronger measures”, sound quite risky, but we all witness “Merkel’s safe approach” in fact a tremendous lack of vision at work.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.