The young population is recognised as one of the most vulnerable groups in society. This is particularly the case in today's situation, as the financial and economic crises have had a strong impact on young people: At 20 %, the share of young people in the European Union who live at risk of poverty is several percentage points higher than for the population at large. Furthermore, one out of five children up to age of 17 lives in families at risk of poverty, many of them in families with young parents. Youth unemployment (young people between the age of 15 and 24) stands at more than double that of the total population. At the beginning of 2010, the youth unemployment rate exceeded 21 % (compared to 10 % for the general population), an increase of more than 32 % from the previous year.
At the same time, more than one third of all young people in the EU between the age of 18 and 24 are neither in education, employment nor training (NEETs). One fifth of children do not have basic standards of literacy and numeracy. And while the percentage of early school leavers has continuously decreased over the last decade, it was still at about 15 % at the end of 2008.
These figures, all taken from statistics compiled by Eurostat and from the first EU Youth Report published in 2009, outline some of the challenges that the European Union is facing in the area of social inclusion among young people.
To increase visibility of these challenges, 2010 has been labelled the European Year Against Poverty and Social Exclusion. Furthermore, the new EU Youth Strategy (2010-2018) [78 KB] has defined social inclusion as one of the 'fields of action' of the strategy. According to the strategy, "The social exclusion and poverty of young people and the transmission of such problems between generations should be prevented and mutual solidarity between society and young people strengthened. Equal opportunities for all should be promoted and all forms of discrimination combated."
According to the new Strategy, social inclusion will be promoted by the European Commission and the Member States in a number of ways: