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EU leaders see ‘catastrophe’ amid youth joblessness

Published on Wednesday, 29 May 2013
A queue of jobseekers in Portugal, just few of the more than 7.5 million young Europeans aged between 15 and 24 are not in employment, education or training, according to EU data. Almost six out of every 10 young people within the EU are jobless – and desperate. Bloomberg
French President Francois Hollande

PARIS – European leaders have warned that youth unemployment, which stands at up to 59 per cent in some countries, could lead to a continent-wide “catastrophe” and widespread social unrest.

The French, German and Italian governments joined forces to “rescue an entire generation” who fear they will never find jobs. More than 7.5 million young Europeans aged between 15 and 24 are not in employment, education or training, according to EU data. The rate of youth unemployment is more than double that for adults, and more than half of young people in Greece (59 per cent) and Spain (55 per cent) are unemployed. Germany and Austria have the lowest rate of youth unemployment, with 8 per cent each.

Francois Hollande, the French president, dubbed them the “post-crisis generation”, who will “forever hold today’s governments responsible for their plight”.

“Remember the postwar generation, my generation. Europe showed us and gave us the support we needed. The hopes that we could get a job after school, and succeed in life,” he said at a conference in Paris. “Can we be responsible for depriving today’s young of this kind of hope?”

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, warned that unless Europe tackles youth employment, which stands at 23.5 per cent across the EU, the continent “will lose the battle for unity”.

Italy’s labour minister, Enrico Giovanni, said European leaders needed to work together to “rescue an entire generation of people who are scared”.

The UK Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury were unable to say why Britain, which has a 20.7 per cent rate of youth unemployment, was not represented at the conference in Paris.

Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, attacked the coalition for remaining “silent on youth unemployment”.

Hollande outlined a series of measures to tackle the problem, including a “youth guarantee” to promise everyone under 25 a job, further education or training.

The plan, which has been discussed by the European commission, will be supported by €6 billion (£5 billion) of EU cash over the next five years. Another €16 billion in European structural funds is also set aside for youth employment projects.

Herman Van Rompuy, European council president, pledged to put the “fight against unemployment high on our agenda” at the next EU summit in June. The commission estimates youth joblessness costs the EU €153 billion in unemployment benefit, lost productivity and lost tax revenue.

The European ministers, who will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the youth unemployment crisis in July, said small and medium-sized businesses will form a central plank of the plans. The ministers are working on establishing a special credit line for small and medium-sized businesses from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which will have a €70 billion lending capacity this year.

However, Werner Hoyer, head of the EIB, warned ministers not have “expectations completely over the horizon”.

Schauble warned that European welfare standards should not be jeopardised to cut youth unemployment. “We would have a revolution, on the very same day,” he warned.

Guardian News & Media

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