The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, has today (February 28th) brokered agreement on an EU-wide Youth Guarantee in Brussels. The initiative represents a key step in response to EU youth unemployment crisis.
Once implemented, the Guarantee will assure young people under the age of 25 a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed.
Minister Burton said:
“Youth unemployment has reached crisis levels in Europe and today’s agreement is a crucial step in tackling the crisis.”
The Minister was speaking following a meeting of European Social Affairs and Employment ministers (EPSCO) in Brussels. Minister Burton chaired the morning session at which final agreement on the Youth Guarantee was reached.
The Guarantee stemmed from a European Commission recommendation and it fell to Ireland, in its role as President of the Council, to chair the negotiations on the recommendation.
Minister Burton said:
“At the outset, the key priority I set for this meeting was to get political agreement on the EU Youth Guarantee. I’m delighted that we have reached a successful conclusion and I believe this will make a key difference to the lives of millions of young people across the EU, including in Ireland.”
Minister Burton - I’m delighted that we have reached a successful conclusion and I believe this will make a key difference to the lives of millions of young people across the EU, including in Ireland.
There are currently 7.5 million young people across Europe who are neither in employment, education or training (NEETS), representing 12.9 per cent of young Europeans (aged 15 to 24).
Minister Burton said:
“The EU puts the estimated economic cost of this at 1.2 per cent of GDP, or more than €150 billion. And the social costs are simply devastating, as youth unemployment has been shown to have lifelong effects and leave permanent scars. That is why it is so important that we act in a meaningful and sustained way to tackle the crisis, and the Youth Guarantee is a statement of intent in that regard.”
“The overall objective of guarantee schemes is to provide Europe's youth with better prospects for their future by ensuring that supports are available to them to enter the labour market. When implemented, the Youth Guarantee will contribute to three out of the five Europe 2020 targets: increasing the employment rate, reducing the extent of early school leaving, and lifting people out of poverty and social exclusion.”
The agreed document recommends that each Member State should move quickly to implement Youth Guarantees in their respective countries, taking into account existing national, regional and local policies and objectives. With regard to the Member States experiencing the most severe budgetary difficulties and higher rates of NEETs or of youth unemployment, gradual implementation can be considered. This will allow these states to deal progressively with their budgetary positions while still acting in a more decisive way to tackle youth unemployment.
In addition to existing funding streams, on February 8th the European Council announced a Youth Employment Initiative amounting to €6 billion for the period 2014-2020 to support measures aimed at addressing youth unemployment and in particular to support the Youth Guarantee.
Minister Burton - When implemented, the Youth Guarantee will contribute to three out of the five Europe 2020 targets: increasing the employment rate, reducing the extent of early school leaving, and lifting people out of poverty and social exclusion.
Further work on how this funding will be allocated and its implementation will now be undertaken during Ireland’s Presidency.
The afternoon session of the EPSCO meeting saw Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, chair a policy debate by Employment Ministers on the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey and Joint Employment Report in the context of the European Semester.
Today's EPSCO meeting also heard a presentation from EU Commissioner László Andor on the "Social Investment Package", which was published by the EU Commission last week. The package contains the Commission’s communication on the concept of social investment as providing a direction towards growth and cohesion for the EU, as well as a recommendation on “Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage”.
Minister Joan Burton looks forward to working with both the Council and the Commission on how best to give effect to the principles and actions outlined in the social investment communication.
“Today’s meeting is only the start of this process,” said Minister Joan Burton. “It is my intention to continue work on this important issue with a view to having formal conclusions at the next EPSCO meeting next June in Luxembourg.
"Social protection systems are vital in protecting EU citizens against the worst effects of the crisis. Through investment in education and training, they also have a lead role to play in ensuring that citizens are job-ready and in a position to avail of labour market opportunities as the recovery comes.
"A fiscal response to the crisis is not enough - there must also be a social response, and I welcome the Package and Commissioner Andor's strong personal commitment on this issue."
Today’s meeting was preceded by a breakfast meeting with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.
President Van Rompuy requested this opportunity for an in-depth discussion with Social Affairs and Employment Ministers on the social dimension of the EMU to assist him in preparing proposals on strengthening the EMU for consideration by the June 2013 European Council.