Tackling Unemployment – A Priority For Europe – By MEP Regina Bastos

Since the first effects of the crisis began to make themselves felt on the labour markets in 2008, Europe has lost around six million jobs. Today, there are almost 23 million European citizens unemployed. Within the European youth, unemployment is even more disturbing: the youth unemployment rate is close to 21% and stands at twice the general unemployment rate.
The most important social challenge the EU faces today is tackling youth unemployment. We cannot abandon our youths and we cannot, and should not, waste both our human resources and talents, nor should we ignore that the most qualified generation ever cannot actively participate in the economic growth that Europe truly needs.
In our fast changing world, we need to anticipate the necessities of the labour market and prepare Europe’s human resources for the next decade.
We all know that the economic, financial and social crisis that currently affects the Union, demonstrated the fragilities of the European economic and social model, but also overturned much of the progress that had already been achieved in the past.
Furthermore, in all Member States, unemployment rates vary within levels of qualifications.
People with higher qualification are prone to find employment more easily.
At the same time, we know that in the near future, the necessities in terms of competence, aptitude and qualifications will significantly rise and in all sorts of professions.
In this context, the European Union is faced with four different challenges: the creation of new jobs; the necessity of growing and remaining competitive; the sustainability of the social security systems; and the difficulty of finding people with corresponding competences to fill in job offers.
I was the rapporteur for the report “New Skills New Jobs”. This report entailed two different purposes. The first purpose was highlighting that immediate action is required to solve Europe’s skills deficits. The second objective was to emphasise the necessity of better anticipating the competence needs of the labour market.
For that, various measures have to be undertaken: firstly, to guarantee the availability of qualified workers, it is important to improve basic competences, such as competences in science, innovation, information and communication technologies and foreign languages; secondly, school leaving rates should be reduced, and professional requalification should be increased.
Furthermore, there should be a clear affiliation between the schooling systems and the necessities of the labour market. Lastly, to improve the functioning of the labour market, norms concerning flexi security should be reinforced and adapted to the socioeconomic contexts of each Member State.
According to an inquiry sponsored by the European Commission, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom account for about 75% of youth unemployment within the European Union.
The study concluded that one of the biggest issues revolving youth unemployment is within the relationship between education and employment, since the percentage of students that believe that post-secondary studies will enhance the chances of finding employment is less than 50%.
In Europe, the mismatch between what the education systems offer and the necessities of employers is resulting in skill shortages, damaging the aspirations of today’s young people, and lastly, our future prosperity.
One quarter of the European youth under 25 years old cannot find employment. Moreover, this number is aggravated in Italy and Portugal, with more than one third of the youth under 25 being unable to find employment; and rising up to a half of in Greece and Spain.
The Youth Guarantee is a new program drawn to tackle youth unemployment which ensures that all young people under 25 will get a good-quality, tangible offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. This offer must be for employment, professional training, or further education and be adapted to each individual requisite and circumstances.
The development and delivery of the program entails strong cooperation between all the key stakeholders: public authorities, employment services, career guidance providers, education and training institutions, youth support services, business, employers, trade unions, etc.
EU countries are currently developing national Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans. The European Commission is helping each country to develop its plan and set up the Youth Guarantee scheme as soon as possible.
Finland has developed a comprehensive Youth Guarantee program. An evaluation of the program found that, in 2011, 83.5% of young job seekers received an effective offer within 3 months of being listed as unemployed. The Finnish program has led to tailored plans for young people being drawn up more rapidly, therefore reducing unemployment.
In Portugal, within the next few years, it is expected that this scheme is going to permit approximately 400.000 answers for professional training, education, and employment for young people, with an investment of 1 300 million euros.
We cannot forget that there are still 23 million people unemployed; nevertheless, we can already see some encouraging evidence that the EU is gradually stepping out of the profound recession it was found in, and the positive measures drawn by the European Institutions and Member States to tackle unemployment are prone to be successful and prosperous.

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