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16 August 2013

European youth in the age of austerity

The August issue of Transfer – The European Review of Labour and Research – which has just appeared, focuses on the consequences of austerity for young people in Europe. European youth has been disproportionately affected by the crisis, experiencing escalating unemployment, increasing employment insecurity and declining incomes. Between 2008 and 2012, the unemployment rate in the EU among the 15-24 age group increased from an average of 15.8 to 22.8 per cent, but with very sizeable differences among countries.

A total of 16 countries saw an increase in their youth unemployment rates of above this average; these included the majority of the New Member States, the southern European countries and Ireland. What is more, for those young people who do have a job, working conditions have deteriorated, particularly due to an upsurge of temporary and part-time work. The advent of the austerity drive further aggravated the situation through the promotion of hard-hitting measures reducing social security provision, deregulating employment protection, and tightening education budgets and family incomes.

This issue of Transfer brings together an unprecedented collection of articles shedding light on the economic, social and labour market challenges facing young people during the current recession. A crucial concern in this respect is how trade unions have responded to these issues in terms of organizing strategy, agenda and action. The article by ETUI researcher Kurt Vandaele thus explores youth structures in five trade union confederations – in Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden – arguing that the struggle waged by European young people during the Great Recession may have resulted in youth structures impacting trade union agendas.

Youth unemployment is clearly an issue of tremendous concern right across Europe. Following a joint demand by European ministers for a ‘New Deal for Europe’ that would tackle this scourge represented by youth unemployment, and the European Commission communication ‘Working together for Europe's young people – A call to action on youth unemployment’ which stressed that combatting youth unemployment should be a top priority, the EU leaders at the European Council meeting on 27-28 June in Brussels came up with a plan to combat youth unemployment. The plan includes measures to speed up implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee Scheme, as well as to increase youth mobility and the involvement of social partners.

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