The number of people aged 18-30 still living at home with their parents in the EU had risen to 48% by 2011 according to new research published recently by Eurofond. The study finds that young men in particular are still likely to be living with their parents into their 30s. Worryingly, the research also suggests that nearly half of young Europeans live in households experiencing some form of deprivation, with 22% experiencing serious deprivation.
We had a depressing tale sent in to us from Jack, who said he was 26 years old and had a university degree, but was still stuck doing temporary catering jobs and working in call centres.
I was doing the lame agency catering jobs, with no fixed hours or guaranteed work on minimum-wage slave labour with little choice in where I was being sent on any given day. The overall impression people my age and younger get is that the jobs we were promised are suddenly not there. The people who should either be moving on up the ladder or leaving the labour market altogether simply aren’t. Instead, they’re clinging on to these jobs by their Baby Boomer finger-tips. Worse still, when it comes to laying people off, employers are allowed to disproportionately inflict the job losses on employees who’ve been with the business for the least amount of time; invariably the youngest. Also, youth doesn’t feel like much of an advantage when you have to compete with all those Baby Boomers who’ve got 20 years or more on you. Many of the so-called ‘employment opportunities’ for internships or apprenticeships in the UK are little more than exploitative revolving door schemes without a job offer at the end.
So, what can be done? We had a comment sent in from Semira suggesting that retirement ages should be lowered across the EU, which she argued would free up more jobs for young people. We took this suggestion to Evelyn Regner, an Austrian MEP who sits with the Social Democrats in the European Parliament. How would she respond?
We also had a video comment sent in from Simona, suggesting that including mandatory work placement in higher education degrees would improve the employability of young people. Regner responded that work placement was a good idea, but she disagreed it should be mandatory:
Finally, we had a comment from Andrea suggesting that the “EU just needs to stop forcing countries into austerity measures, then there will automatically be more jobs.”
We took this comment to the Irish Minister for European Affairs, Paschal Donohoe, whose party sits with the Centre-Right in the European Parliament. Ireland has undergone a painful series of austerity measures since the crisis began, and recently exited its IMF-EU bail-out programme. How would he respond?
Well, I would take a very different view to Andrea. The primary source of so-called austerity measures is the inability of countries to borrow at an economic interest rate they can afford to borrow at. And, regardless of the existence of the EU, the relationship that Member States have with the financial markets is the decisive factor.
I know that for Ireland – and I’m only going to comment on what happened in Ireland – the key thing that forced us to take many of the difficult measures that we had to recently was the fact that Ireland either could not borrow from the financial markets or could not borrow at a rate that was affordable for our country. That’s primarily a direct relationship with the financial markets that is very much independent of our relationship with the EU. And, in fact, the EU has played a role in allowing countries to take those measures at a pace that is different to what they would otherwise have to do.
Reducing unemployment and fixing the economy are top of the agenda for all of the parties going into the European Parliament elections in May. The Centre-Right have pledged in their manifesto to “encourage growth and jobs through structural reforms so that Europe attracts private investment”, whilst the Liberal Democrats want to “boost the economy by completing the Single Market, working for an EU-US free trade agreement and better supporting SMEs”
A very different approach is taken by the Social Democrats, who promise in their manifesto to “create more and better jobs by introducing an ambitious European industrial policy, increasing funding for the Youth Guarantee plan and introducing decent minimum wages across Europe either by law or through collective bargaining.” Meanwhile, the Greens say they will “reinvent the European economy through a ‘Green New Deal’ by ending austerity, restructuring public and private debt and investing massively in sustainable sectors and technologies.” Don’t forget to vote for the party YOU support in your Debating Europe Vote 2014!
Would lowering the retirement age help free up more jobs for young people? Would mandatory work placements help give practical experience to graduates? Or would ending austerity policies create new jobs for everyone? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.