Over 20% of under 25s in Europe1, i.e. 4.6 million young people, are unemployed. France, where 24% of young people below the age of 25 are out of work, is no exception. Far from being perceived as a solution to this endemic problem, Europe is often held responsible. Through the “Hear my Voice” project, Confrontations Europe aims to give young French people – especially those living in underprivileged areas – an opportunity to speak out on issues such as employment and occupational integration, and to look into what Europe could do for them. Do young people in Bondy and Sarcelles know about and have access to the mobility and training initiatives promoted and financed by the European Union?
E-U EMPLOYMENT? TRAINING AND MOBILITY INITIATIVES: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EVERYONE?
The European Union (EU) is fully aware of the vast scale and extent of youth unemployment. Although it has only a supporting role in education and employment, the EU is taking concrete measures to control the situation by directing the action of Member States and financing pan-European initiatives. It does much more than just organise exchange programmes between European universities. It cares about all its citizens and is continuing to democratise its programmes as far as possible.
Erasmus+, for example, is open to all young people regardless of their financial situation or their qualifications. It offers a broad and diverse range of opportunities to gain experience abroad through the European Voluntary Service and youth exchange schemes for example, and is aimed at students, apprentices and young people in general, whether they are in education or not. The EU is also taking concrete measures – such as the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee Scheme – to assist young people furthest from the employment market (NEETs2). Under the Youth Guarantee Scheme, Member States are asked to guarantee that all young people below 25 – whether registered as unemployed or not – are offered a job, a work placement or training within four months of leaving school or losing their job.
EUROPE? WHO? WHAT? HOW?
Despite the initiatives it has introduced and the commitment it has displayed, the European Union is not seen as a solution to youth unemployment, particularly in underprivileged areas. Why?
The Member States still have full sovereignty over employment and training policy. In fact, people are unaware of the support provided by the European Union because national governments transpose European initiatives into national law, thereby taking ownership of them. Europe’s role in national action and as a source of finance is not always made clear to the citizens of Member States.
Communication is therefore key. Young people are not intrinsically hostile to Europe but they are ill-informed of its actions. It is time everyone stepped up to the plate: the EU must be more present and Member States must promote its actions. Associations on the ground, educational establishments and their managers must also be given the necessary training and made aware of the opportunities available across Europe, so they can provide young people with appropriate guidance.
Of course, European schemes can seem complex and obscure. But it is crucial we make sure everyone knows about them and has access to them. Too often, people living in underprivileged areas view the employment, mobility and training opportunities offered by the EU as an unattainable luxury.
That much is clear. The priority now is not to create more schemes or release more funds, but to focus on implementing existing schemes and ensuring that everyone has access to them.
1 Eurostat, August 2015
2 Not in education, employment or training