“Pension systems are unsustainable”
“Pension contributions won’t cover future pensions”
“Over 50% of Greek youth is unemployed”
“Young Europeans are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than adults”
If the first two statements should be worrying for anyone who might want to retire one day, then the last two statements should be terrifying for anyone thinking of retiring one day. Unless Europe saves its young generation, it won’t be able to fulfil its pension – and other social security – commitments in the future. The costs of youth unemployment fall most heavily on young people. But they affect everyone in society too.
At the end of 2012 5.7 million under 25-year-olds were out of work or education in Europe. This is more than the entire population of Finland, or twice all of the Slovenians. Adding those under 30- years-old and unemployed, the figure doubles. And worryingly, the periods of unemployment amongst young people have grown in length in the past few years.
Youth unemployment is nothing new
Youth unemployment has exploded during the current crisis, but its roots go back further than that. Youth unemployment has been double that of the adult unemployment from the mid-1990’s in many European states – Germany and the Nordic countries included. According to a Friedrich Ebert Stiftung study the roots lie in the re-structuring of the labour markets in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic crisis of early 1990’s. During this time the way we worked changed. Full-time, life-long employment changed to short-term, fixed contract and part- time jobs. And this brought with it unemployment periods of different lengths for those who enter labour markets. 20 years on, and nothing has changed, except that those young people in the 1990’s never “grew out” of the work patterns of bits and bobs.
Then came the crisis, and multiplied everything…
The youth unemployment is a long lasting legacy of the current economic crisis. It is also a legacy, that will keep costing the European states. According to a Eurofond study, youth unemployment currently costs European states more than 100 billion euros a year in increased unemployment and social expenditure and lost revenue. In other words, in comparison the sovereign debt crisis is peanuts. Therefore it makes economic sense, as well as being humanely essential, that we find solutions to youth unemployment crisis and soon.
“Our generation is likely to be the first one in modern history that is worse off than its parents’ generation was.”
In December 2012 the European Commission published their proposal for the recommendation of a Youth Guarantee, an initiative ECOSY has been campaigning for since 2009. The proposal is a great victory for the socialist movement in Europe. It calls for a guarantee that promises each young person a place in either education, employment or further training within four months of the start of their unemployment, or graduation.
It shows that Europe, which desperately needs concrete measure from the European institutions to tackle the consequences that the economic crisis, is taking the issue seriously. The message must be that the young generations cannot be the ones to pay the highest price of the failure of the markets.
The Multi-Annual Financing Framework (MFF), the European budget deal reached at the start of February, includes 6 billion euros for creation of the Youth Guarantee and for youth unemployment reduction. This also is good news, although not at all enough. We need an inter-generational social contract
What we need is a new social contract between the generations in Europe. We need the young people in the labour markets, paying taxes and contributing to pensions desperately, everywhere. The youth of today lack the opportunities their parents had in the previous decades to make their own life, because of the crisis that cripples our societies. Together we can over-come these hurdles.
What is needed now is a strong commitment from the EU Member States on eradicating youth unemployment. We don’t need fine words and some euros to pay lip service for benefit of media coverage, but we need real implementation of youth guarantee everywhere. We need growth and jobs through investment and innovation, and we need the young people in labour markets giving their contribution to the societies that have nursed and educated them.
Our generation is likely to be the first one in modern history that is worse off than its parents’ generation was. We lack the opportunities to build our own future and contribute to the society the previous generations had. We don’t ask to be given anything for free, only for a fair starting point.
We need to ensure that every young person in Europe has an equal and fair start in life, as well as the responsibility to contribute back to the society through work and taxation.
Kirjoitus on julkaistu Debatti-lehdessä 1/2013