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 Why rural areas need free buses

    Why rural areas need free buses

    To have a fully functioning society, bus services in rural areas should be free of charge. For young people seeking employment, education or entertainment, the unwell needing to visit and be visited in hospitals or the elderly wanting to break the loneliness of isolation, public transport is essential. If governments don’t want to spend money on services in rural areas, they should at least provide the means for people who live there to get to them in urban areas. Regular […]

    Read more →
  • News Austin Mitchell rubbishes claims that Labour MPs could join UKIP

    Austin Mitchell rubbishes claims that Labour MPs could join UKIP

    The idea that any Labour MPs could follow Douglas Carswell’s lead by joining UKIP is merely “wishful thinking” on their part, according to a prominent Eurosceptic Labour MP. Yesterday, Nigel Farage claimed that he has “spoken to many” Labour MPs this year who “support everything UKIP is trying to do”, while a UKIP source today told the BBC that as many as ten “deeply unhappy” Labour MPs who are “fed up with being patronised by the Labour glitterati” and would […]

    Read more →
  • Featured David Cameron only has himself to blame for his problems with UKIP

    David Cameron only has himself to blame for his problems with UKIP

    This week’s defection by Douglas Carswell to UKIP was a hammer blow for the Prime Minister’s authority.  David Cameron and the Tories are running scared of UKIP and are more divided than ever before. With Stuart Wheeler, the former Tory donor and now UKIP treasurer, declaring that at least two more MPs are “seriously considering” defecting, we know that the introspection and turmoil is set to continue. As the Tories’ identity crisis deepens, it becomes clearer and clearer that they cannot provide […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Rather than focusing on free schools, Labour should consider supporting home education

    Rather than focusing on free schools, Labour should consider supporting home education

    The Labour Party, since at least 2010 have gradually begun to present a coherent, cohesive education programme, to present to the electorate in time for the General Election in 2015. We’ve rightly focused on Michael Gove’s profligate waste of money on free schools. We’ve rightly focused on the Liberal Democrats’ breaking their pledge to vote against raising tuition fees. We’ve rightly focused on the other 50% of people who decide to not go to University and we’re now right to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Attracting the anti-UKIP vote – why Clacton matters for Labour

    Attracting the anti-UKIP vote – why Clacton matters for Labour

    Make yourself a cuppa, pull up a comfy chair, and watch. Since Douglas Carswell’s surprise/no-surprise defection to UKIP yesterday and the forcing of a by-election in Clacton, there will be some in the party tempted to adopt this attitude. And not without good reason. Consider the previous by-election outings over the last year or so. In Eastleigh, a Liberal Democrat/Tory marginal, from nowhere, became a LD/UKIP marginal. The Conservatives were dumped into third place and our vote stagnated at just […]

    Read more →