«I cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment. I cannot and will not accept that the millennials, Generation Y, might be the first generation in 70 years to be poorer than their parents» said Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, in his 2016 State of the Union speech. Indeed, the youth unemployment rate is a growing problem in Europe: from 16.7% in the EU in June 2017, the unemployment rate for the whole labour force stood at 7.7% at the same date. The end of the European Skills Week, which took place from 5 to 9 November 2018 across Europe and aimed to promote apprenticeship and vocational training in each Member State, is therefore an opportunity to take stock of the funds available for youth employment. While the Youth Guarantee has led to many reforms in Europe, the Youth Employment Initiative facilitates its implementation. In addition, the European Social Fund supports training centers, while the Erasmus + programme has developed widely among students and expanded to apprentices.
I The Youth Guarantee
The Youth Guarantee is a commitment made by all EU countries to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 can benefit from employment, further training, apprenticeship or internship within four months of losing their job or leaving school. From 2013 to 2015, Member States adopted a total of 132 measures to guide young people towards the labour market.
II The Operational Programme of the European Social Fund
The European Social Fund (ESF) is part of the Europe 2020 strategy by supporting projects aimed at reducing inequalities within regions, through actions targeting social and professional inclusion. Regarding youth employment, the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) mainly funds actions for young people under 26 who have no employment, education or training (called NEET) and has as a priority improving their access to employment. This approach particularly supports regions where youth unemployment is above 25% and aims to support 300,000 young NEET towards employment by 2018. To date, the consumption of the Youth Employment Initiative is 28% for France (64% programmed), 11% for Italy (44% programmed) and 5% for Spain (59% programmed).
III The Erasmus + programme: encouraging apprentices to move around Europe
The Erasmus + 2014-2020 programme has evolved in order to broaden its scope of action so as to provide young apprentices with a European mobility grant. This programme, now available to these young people, allows them to do a two-week to one-year internship in a European country, with or without courses in a training center. The objective is to reach the figure of 15,000 apprentices in European mobility by 2022. However, inequalities between young apprentices and graduates persist. In 2017, 6,800 apprentices benefited from Erasmus compared to 44,000 university students. Nevertheless, the Erasmus programme continues rolling out, with the release of its new call for proposals, including better “mobility for learning purposes”, “cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practice”, and “support for policy reform”.
Many initiatives are deployed to encourage the employment of young people in Europe and are trying to fight against undeniable equality in employment. The European Union will step up its efforts for the period 2021-2027 with 30 billion euro for Erasmus (twice the 2024-2020 budget) and an increase in funds for the Youth Employment Initiative, which will be integrated into a new ESF+ with the following objectives: “education, training and lifelong learning”, “efficient labour markets and equal access to quality employment” and “social inclusion, health and the fight against poverty”. This new programme is expected to receive a budget of 101.2 billion euro for the period 2021-2027.