We need a UK Youth Guarantee

December 6, 2012 9:55 am

Amidst the obsession with EU budget battles you’d be forgiven for not noticing the announcement by the European Commission yesterday of a package of measures to assist Member States in tackling unacceptable levels of youth unemployment.

The package, the centrepiece of which is a recommendation for Member States to implement a Youth Guarantee as called for by the Party of European Socialists (PES) and their MEPs in the group of Socialists & Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, is an indictment of the lack of action on the part of Member States who have not done enough since the economic crisis began to deal with chronic levels of unemployment amongst young people in Europe that are still rising today. It is also recognition that co-ordinated European action is necessary if we are to improve the future of Europe’s youth.

Anyone who has experienced periods of unemployment knows how soul destroying it can be. I was forced to leave home at an early age and I bounced from one low paid part-time job to another, often with periods of unemployment in between. Typically, young people tend to be in less stable employment. Over-represented in temporary and part-time work, young people are usually the last to be hired and the first to be fired.

It is particularly important to tackle youth unemployment because the simple experience of unemployment increases future exposure to joblessness, undermining pay and career opportunities throughout your working life and eventually leading to lower pensions. Youth unemployment is also much more prevalent than adult unemployment – the average youth unemployment rate in Europe is now just under 23% compared to 9% for adults. In Greece youth unemployment has just hit a terrifying 57%. 5.5 million young people are out of work across Europe.

In my own region of the North West, over 9,000 young people have been languishing on Jobseekers Allowance for more than 12 months, with many more thousands out of work for a shorter period. Part of another Tory lost generation thrown on the scrapheap by a government that is not interested in looking after those at the bottom, only providing tax breaks for their rich backers at the top.

We’re at risk of creating what the OECD called “a scarred generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work”.

The Youth Guarantee called for by PES and the S&D group and endorsed by the European Commission would ensure that every young person in Europe must be offered a quality job, further education or work-focused training within four months of leaving education or becoming unemployed.

Not dissimilar to Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, the Youth Guarantee would involve investing money in the creation of new jobs and training places for young people. The scheme would be financed initially by unused or re-directed EU Social Funds (ESF).

Some Member States are already taking action. Austria, with active labour market policies, was the inspiration for the Europe-wide campaign. Austria introduced a Youth Guarantee in 2008, ensuring that every young person registered with the Public Employment Service as a jobseeker or apprenticeship-seeker for more than 3 months is offered either a suitable job, an apprenticeship on the free market or a training opportunity provided by the PES. As a result Austria has one of the lowest youth unemployment levels in Europe.

Meanwhile, in the UK, we have a Work Programme getting 2 out of every 100 participants into full-time employment, youth unemployment passing 1 million and the scrapping of compulsory work experience for young people.

At home, we need a national campaign to put pressure on the government to enact a UK version of the Youth Guarantee as soon as possible. Labour has suggested a Real Jobs Guarantee, which is a great start but doesn’t go far enough. We shouldn’t wait until young people have been on the scrapheap for a year before getting them back to work.

In Europe, David Cameron and his 26 counterparts should not only approve this package at next week’s EU summit and implement it across all Member States immediately, they should demand further action to refocus the EU budget towards additional measures to tackle the jobs and growth crisis. Without this, the prospects of Europe ever getting out of this mess look bleak.

Tweet your comments to me on @kevpeel with the hashtag #youthguarantee

Latest

  • Comment The talent we need to improve Labour’s image already lies on our backbenches

    The talent we need to improve Labour’s image already lies on our backbenches

    The message that Labour will repeal the bedroom tax and the NHS reforms and initiate a massive programme of house building and youth employment is lost in a morass of chatter: how well you eat a bacon butty, a badly judged tweet or a dodgy photo. And voters are supposed to make decisions that will affect them, their children and their country for ever. Labour must come to grips with that reality to give us any hope at all of […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly Survey: Scottish income tax, Rochester & Strood by-election and Thornberry’s resignation

    Weekly Survey: Scottish income tax, Rochester & Strood by-election and Thornberry’s resignation

    Former Chancellor and chair of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling weighed in on matters of fiscal devolution this week, arguing that income tax should not be completely devolved to Holyrood. “We risk ending up with the same institutional structures of the eurozone: an integrated monetary union without a fiscal union,” he warns, “No one voted for that.” Of the candidates for Scottish Labour leader, all have expressed their reservations about total devolution on the subject, although Jim Murphy has […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour will meet industry demand by creating more engineers by 2020

    Labour will meet industry demand by creating more engineers by 2020

    Ed Miliband has pledged that a next Labour government would train more people as engineers. In a Facebook post today, Miliband has said that under Labour there would be 400,00 more engineers by 2020.   Miliband notes that research shows “the country needs  approximately 780,000 more engineers between now and 2020 to meet industry demand – 156,000 per year.” But that at the moment “we are training less than half that – leaving Britain with a shortfall of more than […]

    Read more →
  • News Poor working conditions leads to rise in poverty for young people

    Poor working conditions leads to rise in poverty for young people

    Young people in work are now increasingly likely to live poverty, new research shows. The rise in insecure employment, such as a zero-hour contracts, the fall in wages and the lack of affordable housing have all played their part in leading to the increase in impoverished under-25s. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s research shows that those living in poverty are now as likely to be employed as not, and the brunt of working poverty is falling on young people. For 16-to-24 year […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Help Labour give people protection from predators in our property market

    Help Labour give people protection from predators in our property market

    Everyone has horror stories about buying, selling or renting a house. All too often the villain is the agent in the middle. Many estate and letting agents treat their clients fairly, others are exploiting the pressure caused by a shortage of housing to charge extortionate fees. Today Labour will seek to tackle these practices and the impact they have on the affordability of housing. You can help by asking Members of the House of Lords to back Amendment 44D to […]

    Read more →