One fifth of young people in the European Union are currently without a job. However, at an EU summit on jobs and growth in Milan on 8 October 2014, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy each left empty-handed, failing to agree on any new measures to help combat unemployment. Youth organisations criticised the summit as nothing more than “an opportunity for politicians to meet and make it appear like there was action.”

Talk of the “break-up of the Eurozone” seems to have calmed (for the time being), but what we are left with isn’t much better: feeble growth rates and an unemployable generation with no work experience and no decent career prospects.

As you can see from the infographic below, youth unemployment in the EU has shot up from 15.7% before the crisis to 23.4% in 2014. However, that figure masks a huge disparity between Northern and Southern Europe, with youth unemployment as low as 7.6% in Germany and as high as 59% in Greece. You can click on the infographic for a larger version:

01 _ youth_2014-01

Are these levels of youth unemployment sustainable over the long-run? When we asked you what you think the biggest threat facing Europe was today, we had a comment sent in by Neven saying simply: “Unemployment“.

At the annual State of Europe roundtable event in Brussels, organised by our partner think-tank, Friends of Europe, we spoke to leading European politicians and experts to ask them about this issue. First up, we interviewed the former Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Monti, to ask him whether he agreed with Neven that unemployment was the single biggest challenge facing the continent today.

Monti absolutely agreed with Neven, arguing that youth unemployment was leaving an entire generation without hope for the future, and that Europe needs a common framework of policies more conducive to growth and fighting unemployment:

Next, we spoke to Carl Bildt, former Swedish Foreign Minister (and a former Prime Minister of Sweden). In reply to Neven, he said he would prefer to rephrase the issue as “slow growth” being the biggest problem, because economic growth is the engine that generates more jobs for the economy:

Finally, we spoke to journalist Paul Taylor, European Affairs Editor for Thomson Reuters (but speaking to us in a personal capacity). He set out some of the challenges facing policy-makers, arguing that it’s not as simple as governments “creating jobs”, because those jobs also need to be sustainable (environmentally and fiscally) and provide decent salaries and job security:

paul-taylorYou can do some things which are palliative but which have high costs in the long run, like if you create lots of subsidised or public sector jobs. But one of the reasons we got into this crisis was that in some of these countries the public sector had grown unsustainable – that was the case in Greece. And yet it’s these same countries again where people are thinking “We need more public sector jobs”. It’s the same in France – I live in Paris and I hear that a lot…

However, you want to have some standards so they’re not all very low-paid, very precarious mini-jobs; jobs where you have a contract with zero guaranteed hours as you have in the UK, or where you have a very low wage, or where you have job security for only three months. Because young people can’t start a family, can’t buy a house, can’t even – in some cases – rent an apartment if they only have a job contract for three months. So, the quality of those jobs is important, as well as making sure the business and investment environment is improved so these are real jobs that are contributing to the economy.

And, finally, I think particularly Europe needs to stick with the idea of “greening the economy”, because that actually is a huge reservoir of jobs. It’s a field in which Europe has been in the lead and, as we’ve been hearing at the conference today, it’s somewhere where Europe seems to be at risk of taking its eye off the ball a little bit and saying “Greening the economy is a luxury for when the economy is growing again”. Actually, it’s not a luxury. It’s essential and it’s a source of growth.

Should governments create more public sector jobs to boost the economy? Or was that the sort of thinking that got Europe into this crisis? Is it time to abandon the idea of “green growth”, or could this provide a huge reservoir of jobs? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Flazingo Photos

154 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar


    • avatar

      You two should just get a room.

    • avatar
      bert van santen

      Agree 100%

    • avatar
      Martin Unterholzner

      Why? Are you contrary to the idea of the EU or is it about its implementation? To ask in other words: Would you change the EU? If so, what would you change if you could completely determine how it is built? Or do you reject the idea behind it, which means that there should be no EU or anything alike?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Please refrain from sexualising bona-fide forum posts – you simply devalue the kudos of this esteemed pro-EU forum.

    • avatar
      bert van santen

      @Martin Unterholzer
      There was nothing wrong with the EC. Our coin(s) could devaluate when or if needed. The countries were closely working together.
      Look what we`ve got now.
      A Europe wide financial mess, because the responsable politicians and bankers believe there is no end to the tax payers money to pay the bills.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Charalambos Cherkezos
      Yes. PLUS the UK is importing immigrants from the in-continent too!

  1. avatar
    Enrico De Zanni

    I don’t think so probably immigration is the biggest threat facing Europe i’m not razist i’m just an European citizen

  2. avatar
    Steve Patriarca

    Unemployment of the over 50s is also a serious issue especially in those countries like Austria where social legislation makes such people virtually unemployable and where as a consequence there is no labour mobility.

    • avatar
      Chalks Corriette

      As some one over 50, I would agree with you. But, maybe not for the same reason. Once you reach a certain age, we have thinking patterns that do not always lend themselves to new ways of thinking and working. This modern disruptive time of Apps and Social Media, mean that work practices have to change and become updated. This is problematic for people that think pension and where any potential employer sees them as a pension liability. I am self-employed and it was the only way I was going to work again at 55. People are happy to hire me for projects and activities and pay my invoices. They wold not hire me with the social overheads that get added by the employer. This type of option does nt work for everyone, and at some point, governments and individuals will have to face the same issues of pensions and taking care of each other….

  3. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    inmigration is not a problem… they produce the food you eat! remember… and they produce the clothes you wear… the extract the petrol and minerals you use… for about 2 or 3 euro/hour so please… dont insult our inteligence.. you live like kings because this people is working hard for you!…

  4. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    To solve unemploynment reduce the time on job from 8 to 6 hours!… thats all!… and please… send to unemploynment corrupt politicians working for bankers, warlords, and drugdealers.

    • avatar
      Chalks Corriette

      So long as people could earn a reasonable living on less hours, they would do it. So, you pose a great solution and the world needs to find a way to adapt the overall cost of living to fit a 6 hour working day. We could do it if we wanted to solve this problem. Alas, I assume we have other things to concentrate on…

  5. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    another option would be to BAN products form third countries that dont respect human rights… like some clothes companies that use children paied less than 1 euro/hour.

  6. avatar
    Raymond Timmers

    No, the problem is the unequalityband diversity in the legislation around labour through the union. And also, the cultural devaluation of labour by youth with lower educations.

  7. avatar
    Carlos Wojciech Manrique Pérez

    No. Islamic extremism is. About immigration: Russian policy: If you want to come, come, we don’t need you but you need us. Its you who adapts to us and not us to you. Therefore if you abide by our laws you will be welcomed. If not you will be deported.

  8. avatar
    Filipe Brás Almeida

    He sure does Antonio Pedro Bernarda.

    Considering that the EU has overseen one of the longest periods of peace and prosperity among its member states in European history, to say that the EU is the “greatest threat facing Europe”, is to be either ignorant of history, or quite imaginable.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Ah yes, the great peacemaker that is the EU, of course the peace couldn’t have anything to do with NATO and a nuclear deterrent?

      And the “prosperity” has been nothing more than a distribution of wealth between countries, if anything EU interference has done nothing but kill off European economical growth allowing countries like India and China to take over

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Filipe Brás Almeida
      Do you mean P?ss and NOT Peace?

  9. avatar
    Bart Thomaes

    Unemployment in combination with training and (“)knowledge(“) is maybe in his totally the biggest threat facing Europe?

  10. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    Unfettered, irrational, illogical immigration is the biggest threat facing Europe, as is currently the case.

    Immigration should be controlled – too much of a good thing or indeed too much of a bad thing is NOT a a good thing.

  11. avatar
    Juls Jay

    those unemployed in Spain are employed in Poland. The unemployed in POland are employed in UK, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway mainly. EU has to put an end to it and get on Poland’s ass at once! Starvation wages were people have no work – in its place German and Italian companies build Warsaw metro with their own staff. PL gov must be held accountable at once for the biggest evacuation of Poles from their own country. EU pumps money here, they need to see where it’s really going!

  12. avatar
    Juls Jay

    And like Carlos said: Islamism! Using social welfare in UK – end to that, end to them. GO back where you came from. Back to Saudi

  13. avatar
    Joao Eduardo

    No. The biggest problem is, as always was, the richness distribution, and because of that, nowadays, the market needs 8 poor people (working people) for 1 rich people, . In 2005 it was necessary 5 people. In China 20 for 1. That’s what they call globalization.

  14. avatar
    Joao Eduardo

    For the record, in Portugal, (i.e.) a man who has a 8h/day/6 days a week job plus another 4h/day/5days weekjob (in total: 40+25=65 working hours p week) remains poor. Who wants to live in a EU like this?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Joao Eduardo
      I’m sure that the good people of Portugal played some small part in their own demise re CORRUPTION.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Who is this man? Probably some unqualified individual who spent all day lazing in the sun instead of getting a decent education. Decent jobs don’t grow on trees, people need to get off their behind get some meaningful qualifications not some toss diploma in dressmaking or napkin folding

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Luca Argalia
      No – control immigration.

      Indeed, let more non-EU people into the Club Med basket case nations thereby boosting their GDP due to population increase and too via attendant infrastructure improvements.

      Additionally, exposure to other cultures might help reduce the high levels of endemic corruption evident in some Club Med countries.

  15. avatar

    The days of “paid employment’ are gone.
    We should accept that and implement an Universal Basic Income.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Gotta laugh at UBI, socialist pipe dream

      However they try and dress up financing it, it all boils down to taking money from hardworking people who have achieved something in life and giving it to the bone idle to do bugger all

      Well bring it on, assuming it is enough to live on I will gratefully join the ranks of the bone idle though unfortunately so will millions of others who don’t want to be taken for a ride and that will bring the whole system crashing down

    • avatar
      bert van santen

      How are You gonna reward the higher educated?

  16. avatar
    Alkis Karydis

    The biggest threat of Europe is that instead of aiming in the Europe of the people, we are facing the Europe of the banks and the multinationals. Since the people are not the core but instead the banks and economic interests, this Europe will not have future. Nationalism will rise and finally Europe will disband..

  17. avatar
    catherine benning

    The biggest threat to Europe are the cities of finance and the Global takeover of our sovereign states. Remove them and you free us all to thrive again.

    And answer this question truthfully, at least to yourselves, why are you even entertaining the idea of the Transatlantic Trade Agreement, known by fifty other names, but still as deadly. Why are the players in this game not being shown the alley door, where those kind of rabid dogs belong?

  18. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @Catherine Benning
    I agree that TTIP is the biggest threat to Europe and indeed quite possibly humanity.

    Unlike you however, I believe that the EU has cajoled (via wealth re-distribution to the Club Med and the A8 countries for eg), contracted (by business-centric EU laws and EU regulations [at the expense of the people]) and coerced (e.g. economic threats to the Club Med countries and even France and the UK) all EU nations to embark on what quite possibly will be a disastrous deal for ‘the 99%’ in the EU and indeed ‘the 99%’ in the US.

    The idea of an EU is a great one BUT its democratic deficiencies, its lack of accountability and its hidden-hand tiller-ship mean presently, that it will do more harm than good for which it was created.

  19. avatar
    Cecília Antão

    Yes, it is, definitely. EU won’t find its way out of the crisis if young people have nothing useful to do with their lives – either working, studying or volunteering.

  20. avatar

    Where did this ‘GDP growth’ obsession come from?

    Perpetual economic growth is impossible, economies cannot grow forever. The only real driver of economic growth has always been population growth.
    Since perpetual population growth is unsustainable, perpetual economic growth is impossible.

    Why for example does Japan’s economy not ‘grow’ in real terms? Simple, the population in terms of numbers isn’t growing. It really is that simple, even if it is a simplification.

    Unfortunately our whole financial-economic system is predicated on having perpetual economic growth and perpetual credit expansion. The system itself is unsustainable, and this is why the measures taken in the last 6 years have done nothing (but to enrich the rich at the expense of the rest, US Federal Reserve QE being the worst of these policies).

    The system itself is unsustainable, and all efforts to prop it up will continue to fail, generally speaking. The Euro is quite exemplary of the unsustainable system. The central idea behind the Euro (besides enriching bankers) was that everyone would eventually enjoy German level prosperity and income.

    This of course has now been exposed for the flawed and impossible idea that it always has been. When you aggregate economies and tie them together in a currency union, the result is not that all will gravitate towards the ‘highest standard’ but rather the contrary. Eurozone wealth can ever be a weighted average meaning that (also considering the limited resources on the planet) in order to have comparable income levels across Eurozone countries, the Germans need to be willing to give up 30-40% of their income. Same for Austrians, Dutch, Belgians, Finns and Luxembourgians.

    I assure you, as long as that willingness to level out the income differences doesn’t exist (and indeed it never will) the Euro can never be sustainable, and like the parrot in the Monty Python sketch is quite dead, no matter how many times Draghi says it’s alive.

    Eurozone QE will enrich Goldman Sachs and impoverish the poor further, as QE always has done and always will, it is specifically designed as covert bailouts for the rich.

  21. avatar
    Andrada Balan

    Unemployed like me… hurray! :))))) great European youth policies! I wonder how many governments actually do care about young, well prepared people who cannot find a decent (not the perfect, but just decent) job, accordingly to their studies, their potential and merits…

  22. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Well yeah!! That is a no brainer!! What is the point of keeping someone unemployed and enrolled in social welfare, paying him/her to do nothing, while they could be working and paying taxes!!

  23. avatar
    Ignacio C. Furfaro

    Definitely NOT. Governments should generate the conditions for the private sector to be able to grow, develop…and hire!!

  24. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    No. This is creating a Greek syndrom and setting the stepping stones to state bankrupties. The state needs to create favourable entrepreneurship environments.

  25. avatar
    Gerry Mavrie-Yanaki

    European Governments should bring down all the protectionist investment, regulatory and trade barriers in the business market place , that prohibit private enterprise in not expanding and hiring more people

  26. avatar
    Nuno Ramos

    As said here, give public loans at low interest rates, generating small and medium companies. Especializing in key sectors such as technology develpment. Also have universities “brain-capturing” students not only from europe but other areas aswell.

  27. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Only if you want a socialist nightmare.

    Public sector jobs do not create wealth, it only devours it.

  28. avatar
    Κυριάκος Μιχαήλ

    There should be new jobs and new semi-govermental companies created with the assistance both of the private sector and the goverment, since the economy now is both public and private in Europe

  29. avatar
    Josephine Cassar

    No, govts should attract investment not provide public sector jobs as these are a weight on public sector wages which increase debt

  30. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    wow… how many liberals (neo-feudalists) in this forum! The easiest way is to reduce working hours form 8 to 6… (and not increase it to 12 like in spain!)… obviously the easy way is the last way the politicians will do. The publci secotr is the 40% of the economy…while multinationals have between the 10 to 20 (20 after the cirsis) so the destruction of jobs has ben done in the small and medium companies… this has been done in agreement with european politicians and BCE which are hired by banking lobbies or big companies… And do not worry about bankrupcy of countries… they control de 40% of the economy so if they want they can print money… the actual strategy againts teh crisis is againts any economical knowledge… we can not increase import taxes… we can not print money… they say we must reduce salaries to increase competitivenes… but then we can not pay debts and go directly to bankrupcy…so big companies can buy the whole state… congratulations FEUDALISTS! now the country is private and hereditary!

  31. avatar
    Sait Menteş Birlik

    govs shall support sme and innovation,start ups shall be easy and benefit from funding easily and fast.a success sme can create more jobs than govs.

  32. avatar
    Samo Košmrlj

    I agree, working hours per day should be reduced, and innovation should be encouraged greatly, with funding available in all stages of the companies’ life.

    And i also think that we should make huge effort to keep the new growth paradigm environment friendly, cause this is the future. And if we invest in it now, we can start reaping the benefits sooner than in a decade.

  33. avatar
    Stefanescu Dan

    v? nvrti?i n jurul cozii:nu ave?i unde vinde marfa pentru c? trebuie s? vindem bunuri ?i servicii !

  34. avatar
    Nuno Sardinha

    The choice depends on each Member State. Some european public administration (for example Portugal) need to be renewed with qualified staff, in such cases maybe it was important the governments create more public sector jobs for qualified staff.
    In other cases, the role of government should only be to make it easier for firms to start new business and make some reform to restore competitiveness and create more job opportunities.

  35. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    in the countries of Europe with little development the young and the middle aged unemployed are victims of social injustice does not make people who live in smail communities are victims of injustices sense to offer some mony and morking for economic growth devalue

  36. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    NO ! EU should invest in education . EU should work on to make it easy to start business and invest . Education , Innovation , Investment .

  37. avatar
    Marco Musazzi

    First of all this is not only an European issue. It is a global issue. Politicians should act first to establish and enforce better work standards in the world. After that they should set limits to return on capital. That is the only way to improve living standards and create sustainable economic growth. The other way will just concentrate wealth in the hands of those who have capital and are willing to exploit the poors (not just in europe, but all around the world)

  38. avatar
    Paola Odorico

    Not on government pay roll please, let the industry employ the young people or else they will be employed by Islamic rebels!

  39. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    I’m really amazed that some young commenters are so blind! After all this mess, they still support neoliberal rubbish. In Norway, the best country in the world to live in, the public sector covers 40% of the manpower! In Sweden 30%! In Denmark 29%! (Imagine that Greece had 16% in 2009!).
    Governments should create new non-profitable markets of unmarketable social goods, like Green economy and of course to facilitate the private sector to grow. BUT BE CAREFUL. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “FACILITATE” AND “SPONSOR”!

  40. avatar
    Daniela Marinescu

    Never public sector should grow… Public sector is already full with tiefs… And I can’t support more of them, I’m already full!!!

  41. avatar
    Lydia Thailand

    They should create a lot of more jobs in every sector and they should cut and strictly check the working hours si companies would need more switches and therefore more employees

  42. avatar
    Erich Scheffl

    We need both, private and maybe public. But you can do a policy also for the private sector to create more jobs. Good jobs. But you shall avoid dumping of wages, and barriers for small and medium companies. Now you only support big lobbyists. http://www.WWSEEP.com .

  43. avatar
    Lefteris Eleftheriou

    Unemployment is a problem not a threat. The biggest threats are austerity measures, the divide between North and South Europe, terrorism, islamisation and immigration. Unemployment is actually in many ways a result of the above.

  44. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    i think the problem is the distribution of work, you insist we have to work hard every day but this is not true… in principle with more technology we should work less (or evolution is senseless)… so the main problem is the re-distribution of work. We should go to 6hours/ per day and less! we can live all like aristocrats. Of course this is not compatible with getting huge profits with multinational companies that finance political parties.

  45. avatar
    João Antunes

    No doubt about it!
    I’ve been unemployed for over two years. The feeling of being no longer useful to society is horrific. It takes you to depression.

  46. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    I think the biggest threat to Europe is Greek scenario for example Spain , Italy , Portugal , Croatia and maybe France . EU should work on to fight corruption , tax evasion and destroy tax havens.

  47. avatar
    Jude De Froissard

    Bad distribution of work ,of wealth, of austerity ,of purchasing power.
    Unemployment, bureaucracy, depression…..all these contribute to lack of motivation and the sense of uselessness.

  48. avatar
    Su La

    Lack of transparency, much bureaucracy and unreal jobs with ridiculous wages.. It is all bout EU job market..

  49. avatar
    Andrea Scacchi

    Toni Muiz more than islam itself, i think, is islam’s incapacity to deal with the difference beetween ResPublicae (public thing) and belief (private thing).
    And yes EU politicians lack of intelligence in that,
    I don’t bother what your imaginary friend you have, simply take your religion for yourself!

  50. avatar
    Chalks Corriette

    The problem with jobs in Europe is down to a poor set of policies. We tax all the things we want less of such as Alcohol, drugs and jobs. If we want more people to work – change policies to allow people to earn money in as many ways as possible – even via the informal channels. Work comes in many forms and we seem to limit it. Create an App, allow us to link it to our government profiles, set targets for tax free earnings, collect VAT and social taxes via the App, allow all payments for services to be done on-line for our work and allow the young folks to earn money in as many ways as possible – please do innovate and move with the times….. Youth are looking for new forms of work, are not constrained by old models of work and do not have an obsession for a traditional, fixed office…… We live in an era of disruptive minds and services – time to ride the wave.

  51. avatar
    Javier Ortiz

    When we think ahead; 5, 10, 15 years into the future we can predict that many of these folks are going to need massive help to overcome the time lost. I have not computed the costs, but they could be equivalent to the intesrests saved thanks to this stupid austerity!

  52. avatar
    Erich Scheffl

    The EU is completely bad for the people. A dictate of money targets. Too many young, but also older people are unemployed. This is the stuff, by which the EU will break down. We need a welfare approach where people have good chances. http://www.WWSEEP.com . The GINI-coefficient is already too big.

  53. avatar
    Julio Guerreiro

    The economic engine is completely stopped, hence unemployment. The EU is to busy bailing out financial institutions(banks) instead of focusing on the EU human capital (unemployed generation) which is in fact the fuel for the economic engine to function. The EU forgot about it’s young which is tomorrows leaders, so will be remembered in the history books. Turkey (non-Euro) is thriving.. Look at Asia for guidelines for there appreciation to there youth!!

  54. avatar
    Leo Vlaming

    Stop fighting the symptoms (youth unemployment) and start dealing with the fundamental problems (lack of competitiveness and over-regulation).

  55. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    It isn’t the young unemployment, it is the huge differences of income and poverty among member states what is the most difficult question of E.U.

  56. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    This is not a threat. This is the result of bad political decisions by bad politicians. Those are the biggest threat to the EU and the rest of the world.
    They need to take responsibility and we cannot let this “vagueness” of a threat dissolve the responsibility of the political decision makers.
    In the other yellow stickers please write – Find a good politician!

  57. avatar
    Massimo Ortale

    To fight this big problem the EU must invest more in education and create a more competitive envirnoment for the private and public sector

  58. avatar
    Toni Muñiz

    Uncontrolled migration and unemployment along with incompetent politicians are the biggest threats.

  59. avatar
    Pedro Jorge Lemos

    No… the owners of companies prefer the slavery of cheap migrants that are invading us… that way theu will be much more rich…

  60. avatar
    Eva Benko Zoltan

    Not only all the way Europe is leading is a disaster for the poor and a large benefit for the rich. Their politics are very wrong.

  61. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    Yes , unemployment and energy . EU should make big investment in solar and employ young people . Stop dirty energy imports .

  62. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    Yes , unemployment and energy . EU should make big investment in solar and employ young people . Stop dirty energy imports .

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