Young people in Europe, what are the prospects for the Covid-19 crisis?

Definitions of young people vary from country to country, but the 15-29 age group is often used for statistical purposes at EU level. At 1er As of January 2020, the 27 countries of the European Union have 73.6 million young people, representing 17% of the population. 51% of young people in the EU are men (37.8 million) and 49% are women (35.8 million).

The proportion of young people in the EU has fallen sharply since the late 1990s due to an aging population and falling fertility rates. Of the 22.8% of the total EU-27 population in 1990, the proportion of young people aged 15 to 29 fell to 16.6% in 2019 and is expected to continue to decline to 15, 1% in 2080, according to the latest Eurostat figures.

A worrying socio-economic situation for young people

Young Europeans have a considerable role to play in stimulating employment and growth in Europe, but today they face many obstacles, such as school failure, poverty, unemployment or even social exclusion.

In 2017, in its White Paper on the Future of Europe, the European Commission stated that “for the first time since World War II, there is a real risk that today’s young adults will experience a less affluent existence than their parents.. “

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the inequalities that already existed among young Europeans with respect to the rest of the active population in the labor market. The youth unemployment rate soared after the financial crisis of 2008. Although this rate fell in all EU Member States between 2015 and 2019, it remained more than double the unemployment rate. global unemployment in the EU.

According to the latest Commission report on youth, the unemployment rate rose for all age groups in 2020 in the context of the health crisis, but this increase was more pronounced for young people with a rate of 13.3% in 2020, compared to 11.9% in 2019. This is partly due to the fact that young people are overrepresented in the sectors of activity that have been most affected by the crisis, such as retail or hotels. and restoration.

These difficulties in entering the labor market have negative repercussions on the lives of young people and increase the risk of poverty and social exclusion. In 2020, the rate of young people aged 15 to 29 at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was 25.4%, which corresponds to approximately 18.1 million young people. The rate of severe material deprivation between the ages of 15 and 29 in the EU has risen from 5.4% in 2019 to 6.5% in 2020.

Young people who have dropped out of school, have no training or work (NEET) are much more exposed to poverty or social exclusion. As part of the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union has set itself the goal of reducing the proportion of young people aged 18 to 24 who drop out of education and training by 2020 to less than 10%. There has been a downward trend in the proportion of NEETs since 2013, but by 2020 it has seen an upward turn.

In 2020, more than one in six young Europeans (17.6%) aged between 20 and 34 did not have a job, education or training, an increase of 1.2% compared to 2019.

Young people have experienced a break in access to education with the health crisis. The closure of educational institutions and the shift to distance learning have increased the risk of dropping out of school among the most disadvantaged young people and could have medium- and long-term effects on their level of skills acquisition and learning outcomes, according to the European Commission.

EU measures to tackle youth unemployment after the crisis

In October 2020, the European Council adopted a new recommendation to strengthen the Youth Guarantee, launched in 2013. This European initiative aims to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 receive a quality offer for a employment, training and learning. or internships within four months of dropping out of school or losing a job. The NEET rate is highest among 25-29 year olds, the enhanced youth guarantee has been extended to at least 30 years. It also provides for better integration of people from vulnerable groups, such as young women and people with disabilities.

In France, the Enhanced Youth Guarantee was implemented through the Youth Guarantee, replaced by a new system from March 2022: the youth participation contract.

In 2021, a summit was held in Porto to build a more social Europe after the economic damage linked to the health crisis. In the Porto Declaration, EU leaders agreed that priority should be given to young people.

In June 2021, the European Parliament adopted new rules to tackle unemployment and poverty in the EU as a result of the pandemic. The new European Social Fund + (ESF +), with a budget of € 88 billion for the period 2021-2027, should support youth employment and improve the quality of learning and internships. In countries where the number of NEET young people exceeds the European average, 12.5% ​​of ESF + funds will have to be spent on youth unemployment.

A new system with the support of ESF + will also be launched to help young people find their place in the labor market. In her State of the Union address on 16 September 2021, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the launch of the ALMA (Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve / Orientation, Apprentissage, Maîtrise) program. , Success). This program will offer:

  • a supervised stay of 2 to 6 months in another EU country;
  • complete project cycle offering support and advice at every stage.

This program should provide a complementary response to Erasmus + or the European Solidarity Corps through the offer support for the most disadvantaged young people and so far they have stayed away from mobility opportunities in Europe (for example because of their disability, their immigrant background, their school performance or their insufficient professional skills).

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