The European Youth Guarantee: a reality check

Unemployment and youth unemployment in particular, are among the most pressing social problems in Europe. Delayed entry into the labour market is associated with long-term troubles in finding employment and pay differentials that may last for decades. It is also a problem mostly likely to befall those young people who already held the weakest positions in the labour market, like school drop outs. For them, youth unemployment effectively blocks their most viable road towards upward social mobility. In the context of an ageing society, a large group of young people failing to acquire stable jobs also adds up to an intergenerational problem. After all, the future of our social model greatly depends on this young generation’s ability to provide for a much more sizeable generation of retired people. High youth unemployment rates, in some countries up to nearly half of the labour force under 25, will have a detrimental effect on that capacity. Moreover, as high unemployment as this may have fundamental consequences to the moral and ideological underpinnings of the societies that, after all, is based on wage-work as the primary and the most desirable means of income.

This year, European social democrats launched a campaign for the European youth guarantee, effectively wishing to grant the right to work to young people. Those under 25 years of age, the guarantee holds, who have not found a job within three months, should be provided with a job, training or apprenticeship. The “guarantee” shifts the focus of unemployment away from individual problems of employability towards more traditionally social democratic ideals in which full employment is a societal responsibility. In a rather tautological way, the youth guarantee solves youth unemployment by simply not allowing for its existence. It is, as such, more an ideal than a policy and must be judged on the basis of the extensive operationalization at the national or even local level it needs to succeed.

This paper examines the state and nature of youth unemployment in the EU and the potential of the youth guarantee. The authors study the countries where a youth guarantee has been implemented or is in the process of being introduced. Analysing the measures, target groups, rights and reciprocities involved in the existing guarantees, the authors then assess the possibility of copying the policy design in other EU member states. They argue that while the youth guarantee was successfully implemented and uploaded to the European policy domain by a limited number of North-Western European countries, the concept has not yet been adapted to reality of those member states where it is most sorely needed. Conditions assumed as self-evident in countries like Finland and Austria, do not always exist in the member states that were most hardly hit by the crisis. There is a lack of stable labour market to integrate into, youth unemployment is not limited to lowly educated youth and the state of vocational education and training tends to lag behind. In order for the youth guarantee to be effective in Southern and Central Eastern European member states, its budget needs to be drastically increased and its focus needs to shift much more to demand side policies and job creation.

More information on the PES campaign "Your Future is my Future"

Background about the FEPS Young Academics Network

The three authors of this study are :Janna BESAMUSCA, Iulian STĂNESCU and Jussi VAUHKONEN (See details in the PDF)

They are members of the Young Academics Network (YAN) which was established in March 2009 by the Foundation of European Progressive Studies (FEPS) with the support of the Renner Institut to gather progressive PhD candidates and young PhD researchers, who are ready to use their academic experience in a debate about the Next Europe. The founding group was composed of awardees of the “Call for Paper” entitled “Next Europe, Next Left” – whose articles also help initiating the FEPS Scientific Magazine “Queries”. Quickly after, with the help of the FEPS member foundations, the group enlarged presently incorporating around 30 outstanding and promising young academics.

FEPS YAN meets in the Viennese premises of Renner Institut, which offers great facilities for both reflections on the content and also on the process of building the network as such. Both elements constitute mutually enhancing factors, which due to innovative methods applied makes this Network also a very unique project. Additionally, the groups work has been supervised by the Chair of the Next Left Research Programme, Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer who at multiple occasions joined the sessions of the FEPS YAN, offering his feedback and guidance.

This paper is one of the results of the second cycle of FEPS YAN, (the first one ended with three papers in June 2011), in which 5 key themes were identified and are being currently researched by FEPS YAN working groups. These topics encompass: “Education, Labour and Skills”, “Economic governance in the EU”, “Migration and Reassessment of integration models”, “Youth unemployment” and “Social Europe and public opinion”. Each of the meetings is an opportunity for the FEPS YAN to discuss the current state of their research, presenting their findings and questions both in the plenary, as also in the respective working groups. The added value of their work is the pan-European, innovative, interdisciplinary character not to mention, that it is by principle that FEPS wishes to offer a prominent place to this generation of academics, seeing in it a potential to construct alternative that can attract young people to progressivism again. Though the process is very advanced already, the FEPS YAN remains a Network and hence is ready to welcome new participants.

FEPS YAN plays also an important role within FEPS structure as a whole. The FEPS YAN members are asked to join different events (from large Conferences, such as FEPS “Call to Europe” or “Renaissance for Europe” and PES Convention to smaller High Level Seminars and Focus Group Meetings) and encouraged to provide inputs for publications (i.e. for FEPS Scientific Magazine “Queries”). Enhanced participation of the FEPS YAN Members in the overall FEPS life and increase of its visibility remains one of the strategic goals of the Network for 2013.