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Employment in Europe


Employment in Europe

Brussels, December 2011 – Against the backdrop of Europe's persistent jobless youth rate of 21%, the Commission is pleading for Member States, workers' representatives and business to join forces and take decisive action to tackle youth unemployment. The new 'Youth Opportunities Initiative', adopted by the Commission today, calls on Member State to work on preventing early school leaving; helping youngsters develop skills relevant to the labour market; ensuring work experience and on-the-job training and helping young people find a first good job. The Commission is also urging Member States to make better use of the European Social Fund which still has €30billion of funding uncommitted to projects. In addition, the Commission has put forward a set of concrete actions to be financed directly by EU funds.

"The Youth Opportunities Initiative – President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso said - shows young people across Europe that we are attentive to their situation. We have heard their repeated calls from Madrid to Brussels to take part in European society. This starts with having a job. Long-term reforms of labour markets are clearly needed, but they take time to produce the expected results. With today's Initiative we are developing more immediate action that will help drive down youth unemployment."

Mr László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion stressed the urgency to tackle the youth jobless rate saying: "The current situation for young people in many EU countries today is becoming dramatic. Without decisive action at EU and national level we risk losing this generation with a heavy economic and social cost". Underlining that estimates show that the burden on society of current youth unemployment levels is about €2bn each week, or just over 1% of EU-27 GDP, the Commissioner added: "The current trend cannot continue, we must give young people hope. They are our future."

The Commission will also make funds available for technical assistance to help Member States make greater use of available EU funding - especially the European Social Fund (ESF) of which €30bn remains uncommitted to projects.

The main actions financed directly by the Commission in the new 'Youth Opportunities initiative' are:

  • using €4m to help Member States set up 'youth guarantee' schemes to ensure young people are either in employment, education or training within four months of leaving school.

  • dedicating € 1.3 million to support the setting up of apprenticeships through the European Social Fund. An increase of 10% by the end of 2013 would add a total of 370,000 new apprenticeships.

  • using €3m of the European Social Fund Technical Assistance to support Member States in the setting up of support schemes for young business starters and social entrepreneurs;

  • gearing funds as much as possible towards placements in enterprises and targeting at least 130,000 placements in 2012 under ERASMUS and Leonardo da Vinci;

  • providing financial assistance in 2012-2013 to 5,000 young people to find a job in another Member State through the 'Your first EURES job' initiative

  • reinforcing the budget allocation for the European Voluntary Service in order to provide at least 10,000 volunteering opportunities in 2012;

  • presenting in 2012 a framework for high quality traineeships in the EU;

  • ensuring around 600 further exchanges under Erasmus for entrepreneurs in 2012.

The actions proposed by the Commission will pave the way for Member States to develop further youth-related measures under the next generation of European Social Fund programmes and as part of the EU budget 2014-2020.


There are 5 million unemployed young people in the EU today and 7.5 million young people between 15 and 24 are currently neither in employment nor in education or training. This concerns not only low-skilled young people having left school too early, but more and more university graduates who cannot find a first job.

The Commission wants to mobilise all actors concerned as well as available EU funding to take immediate measures that will enable smoother transitions between education and work as well as ease access to work for young unemployed across Europe. The aim is to help youngsters that are neither in education nor work to find a job, or return to training and to help those with a third level education find a first job.

The Commission will strongly support Member States in this endeavour by giving them policy guidance as well as concrete assistance. In the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, Member States are expected to address youth employment in their 2012 National Reform Programmes and youth policies and measures will systematically be addressed in the draft Country Specific Recommendations for 2012. The Commission will continue to assess and analyse measures taken by Member States to fight youth unemployment and will report on this to the informal Council of Employment and Social Ministers in April 2012.

For more information:

'Youth Opportunities Initiative' Communication: 

Youth on the Move: