Reinhard Bütikofer is MEP and Co-Chair of the European Green Party and Michael Bloss is the co-spokesperson of the Federation of Young European Greens.
This week, following an invitation from the EU Commission, member states and other interested stakeholders come together for a conference on the Youth Guarantee. The conference focuses on the implementation of this policy instrument, which was first proposed by the Green Group in the European Parliament, in 2010.
Nowadays, the Youth Guarantee has become a mainstream instrument, which both the EU Commission and the Governments in Europe pursue, and in which they all put hopes. So the conference offers a good occasion to assess where we stand with this instrument.
The Youth Guarantee consists of the promise that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – get a good quality, concrete offer within 4 months of completing their formal education, or becoming unemployed.
The Youth Guarantee can be a powerful tool to fight youth unemployment, but it can also be used to make young people disappear from unemployment statistics. There can be a temptation to implement the Youth Guarantee only half way. It would thus serve as a mere “storage” strategy for young people, not a real solution. Indeed, according to the current guidelines for the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, the programme stays a mere government employment project, but does not empower youth to achieve their dreams.
The Youth Guarantee must Empower the Youth!
The Youth Guarantee must be an instrument that provides perspectives to young people. However, if not funded properly, all of the good potential will be wasted. Therefore, the Youth Guarantee needs realistic funding from the Commission.
Almost all of the young unemployed in Europe look for perspectives, are eager and willing to work, and have the ambitions to realize some valuable achievement in their lives. But this generation is now in danger of becoming “Generation Disillusioned”, since the political system is not able to provide a framework that would enable them to fulfil their dreams. Jobs, and the educational programs provided by the Youth Guarantee, when they are simply storage spaces, enhance the agony of youth. The Youth Guarantee must also support the ambition and initiative of young people, and help them create their own projects. These can be start-up enterprises, social enterprises, co-operatives, art collectives and other youth-driven projects.
The Youth Guarantee only supports people up to the age of 25. This age limit is too narrow. Many young people at this age are just exiting university. Others find themselves unemployed as victims of the crisis, and austerity measures. As the start of their careers, young people are more vulnerable, since they do not have a lot of experience. All young people live under such conditions. Therefore the age limit of the Youth Guarantee needs to be increased up to at least 30 years.
Empowerment means Good Education!
The aspirations of youth are best fuelled by the right tools. But too often education, and vocational training, is too far away from real practice and needs of everyday life. A dual system of vocational training would provide an education that is close to the needs of job realities. Instead of setting up educational programmes detached from reality, the Youth Guarantee should focus on supporting apprenticeships of this dual nature, in cooperation with cultural and social projects.
Internships should also be understood as a cooperative effort. However, precarious living conditions of young people sometimes get worse during internships, since many young people do not get compensation for such work. Interns need to get a minimum wage and travel allowances to be able to cover the cost of internship-related mobility. An internship is part of an education. Therefore the Charta for Internships need to be compulsory for these programmes. The Youth Guarantee should only send people into quality internships.
With the increase in life expectancy, older people work longer. Young people may have to wait for a little longer to take over their jobs. We therefore need to carefully frame the relationship between young and old, instead of engaging in an intergenerational conflict. There are a lot of points for cooperation: Older people should be given the opportunity of transfering their experience and knowledge to youth. Different generations could engage in active cooperation, in order to ensure a good transfer of knowledge. Such programmes should also be considered when implementing the Youth Guarantee.
The bottom line: We need to create jobs!
The Youth Guarantee is one of the few programmes that got its budget increased, whereas other budgets had to suffer from austerity politics. However, the promised 6 billion Euros for 7 years is not enough. An ILO study concluded that the Youth Guarantee needs a budget of 21bn Euros in order to work. Still, the investment must be put in the right places, in order to create what is really needed to end youth unemployment crisis: jobs. Without moving beyond the austerity policies that are failing Europe’s youth, mass youth unemployment will not be overcome. Public and private investment in what has been described as a Green New Deal would be the most promising option. That includes infrastructure investment, investment in energy and resource efficiency, investment into recycling, and into a closed loop low carbon economy, based on ambitious promotion of renewable energies.
The Youth Guarantee only works with a vision
The Youth Guarantee can be a powerful tool to mitigate the youth unemployment crisis. However, just creating short-termed jobs and educational programmes doesn’t solve the problem. The Youth Guarantee needs to empower the youth, by giving them the means and the skills to develop their own perspectives as young people. Therefore, it cannot stay a mere governmental employment programme, but must support young people’s projects, regardless of whether they are start-ups, social enterprises, cultural or social projects. Underfunded as the Youth Guarantee currently is, it will not be able to deliver on such objectives. But here the motto applies, that another young generation coined 45 years ago: Be realistic, demand the impossible!
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