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Youth Opportunities Initiative

The Youth Opportunities Initiative was a set of measures that took place in 2012 and 2013 to drive down youth unemployment. It was part of the EU's Youth on the Move education and employment initiative.


To support unemployed young people. In particular it aimed to help:

  • people who left school or training without having achieved upper-secondary education to return to school or enrol in vocational training for in-demand skills
  • graduates to get a first work experience.


Promoting youth employment through:

  • greater use of the European Social Fund
  • innovative approaches
  • making it easier for young people to find jobs in another EU country
  • stronger partnerships between political authorities, business and trade unions at EU, national, regional and local levels
  • policy guidance and assistance from the European Commission.

As part of the "European Semester" (annual cycle of economic and fiscal policy coordination), the Commission assessed EU countries' national reform programmes.

15 countries had youth unemployment rates above the EU average (22.3% in November 2011). For them, the Commission provided guidance on implementing the Youth Opportunities Initiative by either holding bilateral meetings in Brussels or sending country teams onsite.

Key actions

European Social Fund (ESF):

  • increased use of ESF by national governments to tap into the €30 billion not yet allocated to projects for 2007-13
  • €1.3 million in ESF technical assistance to set up apprenticeship schemes – EU countries were asked to contribute to a 10% funding increase. The goal? 370,000 new apprenticeship placements by the end of 2013.
  • €3 million in ESF technical assistance for young business starters and social entrepreneurs

Other EU-level actions: