Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Youth Employment Initiative (YEI)

The Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) is one of the main EU financial resources to support the implementation of Youth Guarantee schemes until 2023. The EU launched it in 2013 to provide support to young people living in regions where youth unemployment was higher than 25%.

In the years 2021-2023 Member States can increase their YEI and European Social Fund resources to help young people affected by the coronavirus crisis thanks to the additional EU funding available under the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) initiative,

The Youth Employment Initiative exclusively supports young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs), including the long-term unemployed or those not registered as job-seekers. It ensures that in parts of Europe where the challenges are most acute, young people can receive targeted support. Typically, the YEI funds the provision of

  • apprenticeships
  • traineeships
  • job placements
  • further education leading to a qualification

The YEI supports the implementation of the Youth Guarantee. Under the Youth Guarantee, Member States should put in place measures to ensure that young people up to the age of 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within 4 months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

The Youth Employment Initiative is complementary to other actions undertaken at national level, supported in particular by the European Social Fund (ESF), that aim to implement Youth Guarantee schemes. The ESF can reach beyond direct support to individuals, helping reform employment, education, training and social systems and services.


2021-2027 programming period

For the period 2021-2027, for simplification, the EU institutions integrated the Youth Employment Initiative into the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), while preserving the focus on youth employment.  All Member States will have to invest an appropriate amount of their ESF+ resources to targeted actions and structural reforms to support youth employment, education and training.

Moreover, Member States with a rate of young people aged 15 to 29 not in employment, education or training (NEET) above the EU average for the years 2017-2019 should devote at least 12.5% of their ESF+ resources to youth.

2014-2020 programming period

The total budget of the Youth Employment Initiative is €8.9 billion for the period 2014-2020. The initial budget was €6.4 billion.However given the persistently high levels of youth unemployment, the EU increased this budget in 2017, 2019 and 2020 by a total of €2.5 billion in additional resources.

Half of the budget comes from a dedicated Youth Employment Initiative budget line, which is complemented by a matching amount from the ESF. Eligible Member States further complement the ESF resources with national co-financing. The YEI is implemented in accordance with ESF rules.

In order to mobilise YEI actions on the ground faster, the EU released substantial funding to Member States in the form of pre-financing, which in 2015 was exceptionally increased to 30% of the special YEI budget line. 

European Year of Youth 2022

The political agreement on the European Year of Youth was reached in December 2021. The Commission will coordinate throughout 2022 a range of activities in close contact with the European Parliament, the Member States, regional and local authorities, youth organisations and young people themselves.

For more information see the European Youth Portal.

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