The House of Lords will today debate one of the most pressing and important issues facing Europe, namely the chronic rates of youth unemployment in the EU. It will discuss the recent report from the European Union Committee, of which I am a member of sub-committee B, regarding the sizable numbers of young people out of work.
It is worth reflecting on some startling figures outlined in the report. In Greece, almost 60% of people between 15-24 are unemployed. In Spain the figure is 54.3% and in Cyprus 40.8%. In the UK, youth unemployment is lower but at around 22% still more than double the rate recorded in Germany and the Netherlands.
The impacts of such endemic unemployment cannot be underestimated. Young people across the continent are missing out on the psychological and economic benefits of being in work, learning new skills and being independent. As George Orwell once wrote, unemployment for humans is the equivalent of shackling a dog to a chain.
So what on earth can we do the get our young people into work? Firstly, we in Britain much accept that this problem must be addressed by working closely with the European Union. Taking an isolationist approach will not work – these are issues that member states share in common with each other and which can be tackled by a common approach.
Secondly, EU funds are available through its Youth Employment Initiative. This money could be used to create work experience opportunities for young people, building upon and supporting national policies on reducing unemployment.
The UK should also replicate the approach of countries (and their businesses) such as Germany, which take a long term and serious approach to training. In particular, the UK government should reconsider its resistance to the EU Youth Guarantee and follow Germany’s lead in signing up to it.