How can we fight youth unemployment? Somehow, the politicians, economists and other ‘experts’ whose job it is to answer this question are never young people themselves. But what do young citizens – who are more than twice as likely to be jobless than older Europeans – think is the best solution to kick-start the economy and make sure more jobs are being filled by young workers?
Given that the majority of our readers fall into the age group 18-24 (with the 25-34 age bracket in second place), it’s likely that some of you reading this are asking the same question. In 2013, over 5.5 million people under 25 were unemployed (23.2%). The highest rates were found in Greece (52.9%), Spain (54.3%) and Croatia (49.2%). Meanwhile, Germany (7.4%) and Austria (8.9%) were the countries where youth unemployment rates were lowest.
What can the EU do to help? And what are the solutions put forward by the different parties? As part of our Road to the Elections debate series, we talked to the presidents of the youth wings of five European political parties: the Centre-Right, the Social Democrats, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Conservatives. To each of them we asked the same question: “What will your party do to create jobs for Europe’s younger generation?”
Take a look at their answers below and let us know who you agree with. First, we spoke to Kostas Kyranakis, President and spokesperson of the Youth of the European People’s Party. He believes that millions of jobs can be created by simply focusing on three priorities: tax incentives for job creators, skills-based education and simpler registration of companies:
Moreover, he argues that the Youth Guarantee scheme is not working. First put forward by the Commission in 2009, the scheme aims to guarantee everybody under 25 a quality job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education offer within four months of graduating. It received strong support from both the Social Democrats and the Greens. Five years after it was first proposed, however, does Kaisa Penny, President of the Young European Socialist, still support the initiative?
The third person we spoke to was Jeroen Diepemaat, President of the European Liberal Youth – the youth wing of the Liberal Democrats. Whereas Kostas and Kaisa focus on what the EU and national governments should do to create jobs, the European Liberal Youth says creating jobs should be left to companies themselves. By giving companies free space to hire new people, Diepemaat argues that more opportunities will be given to people who want to enter the labour market for the first time.
Next, we spoke to Michael Bloss, co-spokesperson of the Federation for the Young European Greens. Like the Social Democrats, the Greens support the Youth Guarantee but believe that it has been implemented poorly. So far, much less has been invested than the 21 billion euros the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates will be needed to make the scheme a success. Moreover, Bloss argues that by focusing on developing specific sectors of the economy, the EU can create jobs whilst simultaneously putting Europe on a more environmentally sustainable path:
Finally, we spoke with Tim Dier, President of the Young European Conservatives. His approach was similar to the Liberal Democrats’ view, in that Tim thinks that Europe should allow businesses the space to succeed and create a more flexible labour market. Moreover, he argued that free trade with the rest of the world will not only create jobs, but also help developing countries to trade their way out of poverty.
Which party do YOU think will be able to best fight youth unemployment? Do you believe that smaller governments, lower taxes and less red tape would help? Or do we need greater public investment to kick-start the economy? Has the European Youth Guarantee failed, or is it too early to say? Let us know your thoughts and VOTE for the party that you agree with in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!