Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Youth employment

Young people and newspaper articles in the foreground

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The EU supports Member States in reducing youth unemployment and increasing the youth employment rate in line with the wider EU target of achieving a 75% employment rate for the working-age population (20-64 years).

EU factsheet on the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative

Why is it important that the EU encourages youth employment?

  • More than 3.3 million young people (aged 15-24 years) are unemployed in 2019 in the EU.
  • In 2018, more than 5.5 million young people (aged 15-24 years) were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs) in the EU.
  • Although it has decreased – from 24% in 2013 to less than 15% in 2019 – the youth unemployment rate is still very high in the EU (with peaks of more than 30% in several countries) and more than double the overall unemployment rate (less than 7%) and masks big differences between countries.
  • Helping young people enter and stay in the labour market helps promote economic growth and better living conditions.
  • Young people face specific challenges in the transition from school to work. Being new to the labour market they are less likely to find a job, or are often employed on temporary and part-time contracts.
  • Young people are more easily dismissed if the economic cycle is weak.
  • The levels of youth unemployment and inactivity are largely influenced by the economy, but they may also be caused by structural challenges.
  • Structural challenges include unsatisfactory outcomes in education and training, segmentation of labour markets affecting young people, and at times the low capacity of public employment services to provide tailored services to young people, particularly to the most vulnerable.

Key actions

  • The Youth Guarantee is a commitment by all Member States to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. It is based on the Council Recommendation adopted in April 2013 following a proposal from the Commission.
  • In its 2016 Communication Investing in Europe's Youth the Commission proposed a renewed effort to support young people through:
    • Better opportunities to access employment
    • Better opportunities through education and training
    • Better opportunities for solidarity, learning mobility and participation
  • The European Solidarity Corps, which is aimed at creating opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in solidarity related-projects that benefit communities and people around Europe.
  • Quality Framework for Traineeships that proposes guidelines for traineeships outside formal education to provide high quality learning content and fair working conditions.
  • A European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships setting out common criteria to promote the quality and effectiveness of apprenticeships. 


  • To help fight youth unemployment and to kick-start the Youth Guarantee, additional resources were provided for Member States with the highest levels of youth unemployment (above 25%).
  • This came in the form of the Youth Employment Initiative, with EUR 6.4 billion in funds for the most affected Member States. Thanks to its positive impact, it was then increased to 8.8 billion in 2017.

The Youth Employment Initiative, together with significant dedicated investments by the European Social Fund are the key EU financial resources to support youth employment on the ground for the 2014-2020 programming period.

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