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Policies for young people should meet expectations

Author: Iliana Ivanova

Published: 16 Jan 2019

Improving policy-making by learning from auditors’ evaluations of youth unemployment schemes.

When we speak about intergenerational fairness, we often speak about an intergenerational contract. This implies that each generation carries a responsibility for both the older generation (eg, pension schemes) and for the younger generation (eg, education).

The recent financial and economic crisis led to unprecedented levels of youth unemployment, increased poverty and, more generally, high levels of fiscal deficits and public debts in many EU member states. These factors, combined with ageing populations and lower fertility rates, puts the intergenerational contract at risk.

Youth unemployment policies under the spotlight

Let us look at youth unemployment as, even if the problem is not as bad now as it was a few years ago, the issue of unemployed and inactive young people continues to be a real problem for society.

In 2017, the European Court of Auditors published a report assessing the two main instruments used by the EU to address youth unemployment – the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative. At that time, while the situation was improving, more than 4.2m people under the age of 25 in the EU were unemployed.

The objective of the two programmes was to ensure that all young people not in employment, education or training received a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

The issue of unemployed and inactive young people continues to be a real problem for society.

Three lessons learnt

We drew three main lessons from our 2017 assessment, which will be useful when designing policies to help youths find employment.

First, for future initiatives in this area, policymakers should manage expectations by setting realistic and achievable objectives. This should go hand-in-hand with performing the necessary needs assessments and labour market analyses before setting up schemes.

Secondly, appropriate strategies for identifying and supporting young people with concrete and measurable annual objectives should be established. These strategies should also identify the main challenges and appropriate action plans to overcome them.

Thirdly, policymakers should improve the existing monitoring and reporting systems to provide better quality data to facilitate the development of more evidence-based youth policies.

Strengthening young people’s trust in the EU

Today some politicians speak about a “lost generation” of young people and in this context, intergenerational fairness becomes an even more central point for political debate. Policymakers need to act to address the issue of youth unemployment and use the opportunity of the recent economic growth as other pressing challenges are coming ahead.

Questions such as how to embed intergenerational fairness in the design of EU policies, what is to be prioritised in the next five years, and what do different stakeholders need to do, are even more important in the context of the discussions around the new European legislative term.

“Less than a third of younger Europeans trust that governments take into account the financial impact of policy decisions on future generations” (ICAEW Intergenerational Fairness Survey 2017)

Trust in the EU, especially of the young generation, is crucial. Only through realistic and objective policies can we, as a society, keep trust and bring our continent to a competitive level in the global arena.