On Tuesday this week, a debate on the Special Report by the European Court of Auditors on the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative was held by the competent Committee of the European Parliament. For the third time, the report has cast a critical view on the less than adequate implementation of Guarantee and Initiative. Both the Court of Auditors and the AK see a lot of room for improvement.
Since the economic crisis, many European Member States have been suffering from very high youth unemployment rates. To counteract this problematic development, the Youth Employment Package, which was to deliver quality criteria for internships, the promotion of mobility and the strengthening of dual education systems, was passed in 2013 at European level. However, at the core of this initiative is the European Youth Guarantee, which was implemented following the Austrian example. According to this, all young people, who are currently not in education, employment, or training (NEETs), shall be offered a high quality job or training opportunity within four months. The Youth Guarantee in particular focusses on making the transition between training and labour market easier. Regions, where the youth employment rate is at least 25 %, are provided with financial support for implementing the employment initiative.
The recently published Third Report by the Court of Auditors is now casting a critical view with regard to how the Youth Guarantee has been implemented by the European Commission and individual Member States, and what has to be changed to arrive at the desired result. Due to the fact that the package of measures got off to a slow start, great successes had not materialised by May 2016, which also was the end of the review period of the Court of Auditors. Admittedly, youth unemployment has slightly declined in all Member States; however, the Youth Guarantee hardly reached those young people, who did not already actively seek employment or training. Apart from that, the current implementation of the Youth Guarantee also failed to provide any long-term inclusion in the labour market – only about one in two young men or women are still working in the same job six months later and not everybody is provided with a high-quality offer within four months.
Nevertheless, the Youth Guarantee is a very important initiative, which should most certainly be continued – one point where the Court of Auditors, the European Commission as well as all factions represented in Parliament agreed upon during Tuesday's debate. However, its implementation had to be improved.
Apart from the more efficient and improved coordination of using existing funds, what would also be required was the improved coordination of various initiatives, demand analyses, better quality data and definitions as well as more realistic goals. However, what must not happen under any circumstances is that existing national initiatives are abolished and that funds from the Youth Employment Initiative are used to consolidate the national budget as was the case in Spain for example. From the point of view of the AK more funds are needed to ensure that the Youth Guarantee is indeed implemented to help all young people to find a job or training vacancy. Only providing funds once a regional youth unemployment rate of at least 25 % has been reached is set far too high; that way no preventative measures can be taken. Hence, in Austria no region may claim additional funds. The AK therefore supports a limit of 10 % – the fact that one in ten young people is unemployed shows an alarming development, which must be counteracted as soon as possible. Apart from that, according to the AK, the conditions for using these funds should also be made easier.
Having said that, the Youth Guarantee is no universal remedy, which can replace other labour market measures. The Report by the Court of Auditors once again demonstrates the negative effects of austerity measures within the scope of austerity policy on the labour market and on combating youth unemployment. Young people, in particular those living in countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal are in urgent need of continuous support. Overall, what is required are more European and national investments in the education, social and healthcare sector, which also have to be taken out of the Stability Pact. The AK has for a long time demanded a Golden Investment Rule for Europe. However, in the long term it would be more costly not to intervene in existing circumstances, rather than now use funds to be able to offer all unemployed young people in the Union, die who are not education, employment, or training, a perspective.