Youth Unemployment in the European Union

Youth Unemployment in Europe
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Even before the beginning of the European crises the unemployment rates among young people were generally much higher than the unemployment rates of other age groups. Until the end of 2008, the youth unemployment rate in the EU has been about twice as high as the rate for the total population. This shows that youth unemployment seems to be a structural problem which has not just emerged because of the European crises.

Nevertheless, the European crises have worsened the situation of young people on the labour market in a severe way and hit young people more than other age groups. Statistics from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, show that since 2009, the gap between the youth and the total unemployment rates has increased. At the end of 2012 the youth unemployment rate was 2.6 times the total rate.

But as always one has to be careful with the statistics. There is a difference between unemployment rates and unemployment ratio. The rate includes young people aged between 15 and 24, a group in which a lot of people are studying full-time and are neither working nor looking for a job. The unemployment ratio on the other hand calculates the share of unemployed in the whole population of this age group. As a result youth unemployment ratios in the EU are much lower than youth unemployment rates. However, both youth unemployment rates and ratio have risen since 2008 due to the effects of the crisis on the labour market.

Sian Jones from the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) stresses, that you have to differentiate between different groups of young people relating to their social and economic background and their access to the labour market. There are obviously differences between persons from low-income families, minority groups and middle-class or high-income families when it comes to accessing jobs.

Looking at the latest statistics from Eurostat we see that the youth unemployment rates have risen during the last year. Besides they show a huge gap regarding the situation of young people on the labour market in northern and southern European countries. In July 2013, the youth unemployment rate was 23.4% in the EU-28 compared with 22.9% respectively in July 2012. In July 2013, the lowest rates were observed in Germany (7.7%), Austria (9.2%) and Malta (10.6%), the highest in Greece (62.9% in May 2013), Spain (56.1%) and Croatia (55.4%).

Youth unemployment in Belgium and Antwerp

In Belgium the percentage of young people between 15 and 24 being unemployed was 22.4% in 2010. This number decreased one year later around 3% but started to rise steadily afterwards until now – the latest data from July 2013 shows a youth unemployment rate in Belgium of  24,6%. The average youth unemployment rate in all of EU-28 was 23.4% at the same time, so Belgium lies just slightly above the European average.
According to a paper from students of the University of Antwerp, the situation of youth unemployment in Belgium and the respective policies which regional governments initiate to work against this problem differ. Each of the three regions (Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders) has its own service institution which tries to mediate between young people and the labour market. According to the authors of the paper, the existence of these three separate services causes difficulties in the transition of young workers between the three regions. The authors of the paper stress that there are many initiatives and organizations which are devoted to resolve the problem of youth unemployment, some of them are programs of the European Union or financed by European funds. However there seems to be a lack of coordination between these organizations due to the federal and regional character of Belgium.
A big problem for young people seems to be the discrepancy of skills they earn in school and the competences being required on the labour market. That´s why a lot of initiatives focus on the development of skills and competences – like JES in Antwerp.

Antwerp has a particularly high unemployment rate. In 2010 it was 14.6% compared to an average of 7.1% in Flanders. The unemployment rate in Antwerp is especially high for young people aged under 26: 28.6% against 20% for the whole of Flanders (July 2010).

The government of Antwerp focuses their policies on school drop-outs and there are different initiatives with the goal to find work for drop-outs within a year. In Belgium, eduation in school is compulsory from people in the age of 6 to 18. Having become 18, youngsters are legally allowed to leave school – that´s why drop-outs without a diploma are a big problem. According to JES, in Flanders 10% of all persons between 18 and 24 years leave school without having attained their secondary degree. There are indications that this share is even higher in cities. Obviously one of the consequences of school dropout is a higher risk of being unemployed.