The jobless rate is rising faster among the young, underscoring the need for a new long-term strategy to address their plight.
As part of its response to the economic crisis, the commission is proposing changes in its approach to youth policy for the coming decade. Cutting across policy areas, the new strategy seeks to reinforce cooperation between EU countries on youth issues.
As the first generation to grow up in a largely borderless and peaceful Europe, young Europeans – those between 15 and 25 years old - have more opportunities than their parents and grandparents. But the growing challenge of finding stable work means many live in precarious conditions that stop them becoming independent and fully integrated in society. Many young Europeans are forced to take temporary jobs because they can’t find permanent positions.
Besides existing action, the EU is seeking to make it easier for countries to coordinate efforts to open doors in education and employment and get young people more involved in society, for example through civic action. In particular, the strategy stresses the importance of non-formal education, volunteering and vocational training in gaining a foothold in the job market, especially for the estimated 15% of young people who drop out of school.
The commission invites national governments to engage in regular dialogue with young people – an increasingly precious resource. Vital for replenishing the ageing workforce, they represent 20% of today's population – but this is projected to fall to just 15% in 2050.
To better inform policy, the EU also has published a detailed report on young people, the first to take a comprehensive view of their situation. From now on, such reports will be published every three years.
Some 17.5% of Europeans under the age of 25 were unemployed in February, compared with 14.7% in February 2008. The new rate is more than double the overall EU unemployment rate, which climbed to 7.9% from 6.8% over the same period.