The economic problems that are currently affecting the youth of Europe 

Article published on May 11, 2017
Article published on May 11, 2017

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The newspapers are full of articles about the economy, but what they often fail to mention are the problems currently being faced by the youth of Europe. We may think that the greatest problems facing young people today are immigration, terrorism or even climate change but realistically it’s the record levels of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. 

The current EU Youth Strategy (2010 – 2018) has two challenging objectives: to provide more equal opportunities for young people in education and the job market and to encourage young people to actively participate in society. There are roughly 90 million young people in Europe, and almost one-third of them are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. This stems from the fact that almost 14 million of them are neither in employment nor any form of education or training and why addressing the problem of youth unemployment is at the top of Europe’s political agenda. In the first quarter of 2013, unemployment in the EU reached a record level of 10.9%, but the figure for under 25’s was much higher at 23.5%. The countries affected most by this were Greece and Spain, where over half of the youth population was unemployed, and rates in Italy and Portugal were also high. One of the ways that the EU is hoping to tackle this is by increasing the quality of education and training. By working with the Member States, they hope to encourage more people to stay in higher education, aiming for the proportion of graduates to increase to 40%. Schools must begin to teach the skills that will help students in landing a job but, in turn, areas such as better teacher training and building closer learning exchanges between universities, business and research. For the next generation to be successful, they must be engaged both socially and politically.

Another problem that the youth of Europe are continuing to face is the issue of unpaid internships. Throughout Europe each year, 4.5 million students and graduates undertake an internship, 59% of which are unpaid.  In 2016, the Brussels Interns NGO (Bingo) launched the JustPay! campaign, an attempt to monitor job ads and pressure employers into following the current law against unpaid internships in the country. Similarly, the European Youth Forum and the Youth Intergroup launched a campaign in March of this year to reclaim basic employment rights by paying trainees, fixing the maximum duration of the internship to 12 months and drawing up an agreement for meaningful learning. As it stands, this manifesto has support from nine members of the European Parliament.   

Furthermore, the UK’s decision to divorce itself from the EU has certainly caused a fair amount of friction. For a generation that have known nothing but a strong European Union, young people who had previously been able to live and work anywhere within the 28 countries of the EU now face certain restrictions. Despite this, sites such as CV-Library still offer advice on how to find work and develop your career abroad. Vice President of the NUS, Sorana Vieru, claimed that, for UK youths, Brexit would limit job opportunities, stating - “Freedom of movement across the EU currently means young people have a wider pool of graduate jobs to choose from, as more and more organisations work across Europe or specific targeted industries graduates find attractive are booming in other EU countries,” she said. “Restricting freedom of movement means finding a job abroad becomes much harder for young people.”  What's more, if Brexit prompts a recession, it will undoubtedly be young people who are most affected. Research has shown that graduates who enter the job market during a recession will earn less than those who do so in a better economy and it is believed that this continues to be the case for many years after. 

To combat these problems, those in charge must take into account the specific concerns and views of the youth in Europe today. Younger citizens can be reached via a greater engagement with schools and universities and must be prompted to voice their thoughts and opinions regarding the issues that won’t only affect them now, but affect them in the future. Last year, when asked to name the best champion for young people within Europe, youths chose Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Pope Francis and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who one participant stated was “an open leader for an open society that somehow always used to vote for conservative leaders – we need one in Europa.”