Ladies and gentlemen,
Or should I say dear colleagues?
Because I have spent many years, where you are sitting now: in the European parliament, working for a Europe that is competitive, inclusive and united in diversity.
I am glad to be part of this very special event. The European Youth Event 2018.
To be here with more than 8000 young people, who are sharing their thoughts and ideas.
Today, it’s your turn, to shape the future of Europe.
I’ve had the chance to listen to many young people here today and I know: The future is in good hands. Even if some of you are concerned about the Future of Europe. And some of you are concerned, about your own future.
For many of you, youth unemployment is a very real concern.
We are fighting youth unemployment. Because if we lose people when they are young, we risk losing them forever.
We must end youth unemployment. Not just because that’s fair. But because our future depends on it.
Digitalisation is changing the world of work. To remain dynamic and competitive, a changing Europe needs your talent and skills. Your vision and enthusiasm.
Europe is growing older. To remain fair and inclusive, an ageing Europe needs your input and labour. Because there will be more people who receive pensions and who need care. And fewer people to pay into pension systems.
In short: We need all hands on deck. And too many people are missing the boat.
In 2013, at the peak of the crisis, 5.6 million young people were unemployed in Europe.
That’s about the entire population of Denmark.
When the Juncker Commission started four years ago, our answer to the crisis was: jobs and growth. With our investment plan. By using public money, to trigger private investment. By applying the stability and growth pact intelligently. By boosting the internal market. By reaping the benefits, of the digital economy and creating conditions that are good for business
Now, all European economies are growing again. Unemployment is at 7.1 per cent, the lowest since 2008. This is definitely very good news.
But youth unemployment is almost twice as high. Even though nearly two million more young people are at work, than during the crisis.
That’s why we continue to fight youth unemployment with our Youth Guarantee.
On the Commission’s initiative, all Member States agreed to guarantee you this:
If you are under 25 and leave education or lose your job, then you must get a good offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or traineeship.
And you must get this offer within four months.
We support this guarantee through our European budget, with a total of 8.8 billion Euro.
And it’s working. Every year since 2014, 3.5 million young people took up an offer. Half of them were still in employment, training or education 12 months later.
Behind these figures are real faces. With real futures.
Take for example Goda from Lithuania. A young woman who wanted to work with fashion. With the youth guarantee, she learned practical business skills. She used those skills, to set up her own fashion business.
Her example shows, that if you invest in people, they invest in themselves.
We invest in young people. By making sure that traineeships and apprenticeships are a real learning experience.
We invest in young people. By making sure that students in vocational education can also have a life-changing experience through Erasmus. We launched Erasmus Pro, so that they now too can benefit from a longer period of study abroad. Just like their university colleagues.
This debate is not only about what kind of job, career or business opportunities you want.
This is about what kind of society we want, what kind of Europe we want.
That’s why we made the Youth Guarantee part of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
That’s why we made our efforts to boost skills, part of the Pillar of Social Rights.
The Pillar is framework of 20 rights and principles, in three main groups:
1. Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, through education, training and lifelong learning.
2. Fair working conditions.
3. Access to social protection for all.
We’ve brought booklets with us, with the full text of the Pillar. You can find them at the Commission’s tent after this session. I might be a bit old-skool, as I like to hold on to my paper copy of this booklet. But you can also find it on the Commission’s website right now and download it from there.
The rights and principles of the Pillar act as a compass to achieve two goals:
First, more upwards convergence in Europe.
Because there are still large national differences in youth unemployment: from 6 per cent in Germany to 42 per cent in Greece.
And that’s unacceptable. There can be no second class Europeans.
Second, the Pillar will help us to prepare for the new world of work.
Your parents’ dream was: a job for life.
Your reality is: jobs for life.
You’ll be many things in your life: employee. Entrepreneur. And you’ll be students again.
Lifelong learning will be the norm. Because in the increasing digital world you will constantly need new skills. To get a job, to stay up to date in your job, to switch jobs.
It’s no coincidence that access to education, training and lifelong learning is the first principle of the Pillar.
The old definition of welfare state is: care from the cradle to the grave.
The new definition has to be: training from the cradle to the grave
Flexibility is good for jobs and growth. But gaps in your career can create holes in your social security coverage. This is not just bad for you. It also puts our social security systems under pressure.
That’s why social protection is an important principle of the Pillar.
Many new jobs will be digital. On platforms.
If you deliver food on a bike for Deliveroo, or drive taxis for Uber, who is your boss? The platform? Or are you a business person on a bike? And when you get sick, old, or unemployed – who pays the hospital, benefits or pension?
I want everyone who works to have access to social protection, in exchange for contributions. Employee or self-employed. The Commission had adopted a proposal, to make this happen.
Another principle of the Pillar: Workers have a right to information about their employment conditions.
Workers in the platform economy or those on precarious contracts often lack this information. That’s why I have presented a proposal on transparent and predictable working conditions.
So that you don’t need to wait for two months, but know from day one what your working conditions are. And that when you work shifts, you know well in advance when you have to turn up.
We are moving beyond the crisis. It’s no longer just about getting a job to pay the bills. It’s about getting ready, for life.
To get on the career ladder, the housing ladder, the social ladder. To do something meaningful. To live independently. Maybe to start a family.
It’s a lucky coincidence that I am Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Mobility.
That also means I can give some career advice.
My advice is this.
Invest in your skills. They are the global currency for the future. So invest in your skills and you will have a good return on investment.
Keep an open mind. Never stop learning.
And finally, be confident. You are now laying the groundwork. The pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.
So don’t worry too much, about your future.
But thank you, for worrying about the future of Europe.
The challenge of your grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation was to rebuild Europe. Rebuild Europe, from the ruins and destruction of war.
That memory is nowhere more present than here in Strasbourg. Once a contested city between France and Germany. The cause of many wars. Now the heart of European democracy.
The challenge of my generation was to reunite Europe, after the divisions of the Cold War.
The challenge of your generation is to reshape Europe. To build on its success, and prepare it for the future.
That future will be digital, flexible, and it needs to be social.
I have no doubt, you will meet that challenge.