Youth unemployment – Now

This report documents the status quo of youth unemployment in 18 European countries in 2013.


This report documents the status quo of youth unemployment in 18 European countries. It also sheds light on how adult education is used to combat unemployment. It does not aim to cover all countries, but rather attempts a balanced picture of North, South, East and West, large and small, unemployment-stricken and healthy. For a summary and commentary on its findings, see also Why youth unemployment? – An afterword.

The article was co-prepared by InfoNet’s Europe-wide adult education correspondent’s network.


This report covers 18 countries across the continent, produced by local InfoNet correspondents.


Charalambos Vrasidas, Sotiris Themistokleous and Chrysovalanti Charalambous

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

Since the first quarter of 2011 Cyprus (Data for Cyprus refer only to the areas of the country controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus) constantly demonstrates increasing levels of youth unemployment. This term refers to the unemployment among young people aged 15-24. In Europe, but in Cyprus as well, youth unemployment rate is significantly higher than the overall harmonised unemployment rate among people aged 15-74, which amounted to 14.6 % in December 2012. Based on Eurostat  figures the harmonised unemployment rate for the age group 15-24, in December 2012 amounted to 28.4 % that is 13.8 percentage points higher than the harmonised unemployment rate among people aged 15-74, exhibiting in a very clear manner the difficulties of young people in finding a job.

In Cyprus, youth unemployment constitutes one of the most prominent issues currently featured in the news. The daily newspapers as well as the various newscasts dedicate a significant amount of time almost on a daily basis to discussing the issue with labour market experts or with relevant stakeholders. It is an issue which has become part of the everyday life and discussions of Cypriots.

The impact of the global economic crisis on Cyprus’s labour market set in in the end of 2008; however, its negative effect on youth employment became more apparent during 2011 following a parallel course with the evolution of unemployment in Europe. The same trend continued in 2012 as the economic downturn persisted, while efforts for growth and job creation have not been accomplished yet.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

Even though the economic crisis might be the most important reason behind the rising figures of youth unemployment, however, it is not the only reason. Problems in the system of education were always present, however, with the coming of the crisis have become more evident. It is during periods of economic recession and rising unemployment, that education policy comes under scrutiny.

It is widely recognised, especially as far as education is concerned, that even though quite a few steps in the right direction have been taken, it appears that they have not been effective. Measures in the field of education and vocational training as well as measures for re-skilling and up-skilling of the labour force are considered as compulsory in order to make the essential transitions in the labour market possible. In the Cyprus National Reform Programme 2012, the need for the restructuring of the system of education was stressed as a means to addressing the needs of an increasingly changing work environment. The need of improving the technical and vocational education was also highlighted, together with the call for strengthening the connection between the system of education and the system of training in relation to the needs of the labour market.

The National Reform Programme demonstrates particular measures which specifically target the promotion of youth employment. Among these measures are job placement initiatives as well as trainings of young unemployed persons that have graduated from tertiary education institutions. Also there are provisions for schemes supporting employment and in-company training of Apprenticeship System Students. Moreover, measures for the enhancement of youth entrepreneurship have also been taken, and various new enterprises have been already benefited by the relevant scheme. Additionally, the field of Adult Education and training has been prioritised by the Republic of Cyprus ever since the early years of its establishment and currently there are numerous courses on offer which aspire to suit various needs for continuous and lifelong learning and help Cypriot adults to obtain new skills which will help them in this hard economic period.


Brendan Marcus

How big is youth unemployment in France?

The ILO (International Labour Organisation) figures for the last quarter of 2012 for French youth unemployment are 25.7 %. That is 730 000 young people aged  15-24, willing to work and without a job. The number is making news internationally. The high rate I shocking for a developed country. The figure increased by 3 points since the last statistic, whereas the general unemployment stands at 10.2 % for the active population. This does not nourish hope for brighter prospects in the future.

Looking back

Up until 2008, 59 % of young adults leaving the high-school level education system found a job position within seven months. The crisis has much impacted the hiring of a professional or technological high-school graduate. Their employment figures decreased by 11 points between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010, sliding from 59 % to 48 %.

Over the last decade, youth unemployment has been constantly on the rise, permanently gliding over the 20 % after the 2008 crisis. It gained more points than the two other age groups showing the shift of workers from one group to the other without a real solution for integrating young people in the labour market.
The latest figures can be considered as a blow after several years of affirmative action towards youth employment.

How is youth unemployment being fought?

Le Contrat des generations, the Contract of Generations, is a plan to tackle two issues at once. One of president François Hollande’s major campaign promises, it aims at helping young people to a first job and sends seniors the promise they won’t lose theirs on the youths’ account. Planned for firms with less than 300 employees which represented 99,5 % of firms and 56 % of the workforce, the companies that will participate in the Contract will get 4,000€ for three years (12,000€ in total).  The measure is estimated to cost 920 million Euros. The government wants to draw 500 000 contrats over the next five years.

In October 2012, the new government of Jean-Marc Ayrault introduced a specific contract to reduce youth unemployment, especially those considered as NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training), called locally Ni-ni, and 15-25 year-olds with a secondary school diploma or living in a priority area with difficulty in finding a job. Les emplois d’avenir, “jobs of the future”, are initiatives with a more important contribution from the state – up to 75 % of the salary of the minimum wage.

Of late, the impact of the “Emploi-jeunes” implemented by Lionel Jospin in 1997 until 2002 is being evaluated and seems only to have profited those who had a defined career plan and a superior diploma.

Grounds for no change

It gives an impression of powerlessness that every new government tries its hand at the task of fighting youth unemployment. The reasons for the difficulties young people face seem systemic.

The wide usage of internship agreements and short-term contracts as a test before hiring prevents reducing the unemployment rate any time soon. A succession of one or the other is not rare and is considered as a passage rite for building experience that will get you hired on a permanent contract.

Furthermore, since the 2008 crisis, workers holding a graduate diploma are less hit by unemployment than those who ended education earlier.

Students with the means to do so therefore pursue their studies which pushes their entry into job search beyond the 25-year-old frontier. Therefore those registered in the 15-24 unemployed age group consider – after too many internships and short term contracts to -change their original plans and return into training in a more welcoming field.
In urbanized regions, especially Ile-de-France (Paris and its region), other elements such as discrimination, both racial, residential and gender discourages young people in ever hoping to hold a permanent job. The absence of statistics, illegal on some topics, does not help to truly appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Youth initiatives

The image is grim, but alternatives to the traditional course of integration are more and more exploited by young people:
– emigration, though many a media talk of brain-drain
– self-employment, through the auto-entrepreneur company frame, a  single-run business where no initial investment is required
– start-ups, the American model of internet companies backed by business angels gives many hopes to young business school graduates

A complex undertaking

The repetitive government efforts and initiatives on many aspects and levels (barely touched here) beg for the necessary tools to fight youth unemployment. Yet it is young people’s despair that requires more focus as the promise of future employment for young people, with or without diploma, doesn’t seem to be acknowledged anymore. Beyond the crisis, when it comes to our integration, France needs to reinvent itself.



Thomas Jung

What are the youth unemployment figures currently in your country?

In Germany, the youth unemployment ratio is as low as 6.4 % (February 2013). This refers to young people at the of age 15 to 24 who are registered at State Job Center as being unemployed or employed with less than 15 hours a week. This does not include young unemployed people in some kind of educational or vocational training.
But there is still a divide between East-Germany (10.3 %) and West-Germany (5.2 %).

Youth unemployment is an issue talked about particularly in large cities (with high rates of migrants) or in de-industrialized regions (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Berlin, the Ruhr area).

Also in the context of the currently widely debated “Wealth and Poverty Report” of the Federal Government, youth unemployment is seen as an “underexposed” matter.
What are the the main reasons behind youth unemployment? What remedies are used?

The rather low unemployment figures (compared to other European nations) are based on various factors: a fairly well-off economic situation, a pluralistic educational system (particularly its “dual [vocational]  education”) and last but not least the demographic change (with Germany having one of the lowest birth rates in the world).


Haris Doukas

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

During the last 5 years (2008-2012), youth unemployment in Greece is following an increasing trend. According to the latest statistical data, the youth unemployment rate was 56,6 % in October 2012 (National Statistical Authority-EL.STAT.). Greece remained the country with the second highest youth unemployment rate in 2011, at 44.4 %, after Spain, at 46.4 % (OECD).

“Youth” is typically defined as those aged 18-24 years. Long-term unemployment is defined as referring to people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more.
The main causes of youth unemployment are identified in the economic crisis that Greece is facing, the program of fiscal consolidation and measures that are implemented. Moreover, the shrinkage of the public sector plays a major role in this respect. In addition, another reason is the absence of direct link between the education system and the labor market. This is leading to a number of young scientists with important qualifications, without the corresponding career opportunities. (see also Alexis Kokkos’ article in this issue)
For Greece, the issue of youth unemployment is of paramount concern and great importance. Labor institutes and national organizations publish studies and reports about the evolution of the youth unemployment in the country on a regular basis and its economic and social impacts. Furthermore, it is a “hot” issue for the mass media e.g. TV, newspapers and radio.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

Lifelong learning is being chosen as the basic governmental strategy in order to ensure both the provision of knowledge which shapes the personality of the modern active citizen, and the acquisition of skills that would improve accessibility to the job market as well as reduce structural unemployment in Greece.

After a period of planning, public consultation, legal consolidation and preparation, Greece is now entering the implementation phase of the Hellenic Qualifications Framework, a validation and classification tool that aims to include all forms of education. (See InfoNet article for more information on the Framework)

The Framework can be considered a useful tool for individuals, students, employees and unemployed people, towards the enhancement of their personal and professional development. Indeed, during this period of professional insecurity and unemployment, this tool can be considered to be a challenge, creating an opportunity for individuals, providing a stable context on which they can pursue their professional development.

Moreover, there is a wide range of vocational training and non-formal education programs that enhance the unemployed citizens’ capabilities and contributes to their integration in the labor market. Moreover, an important amount of structural funds are devoted in lifelong learning to combat unemployment in Greece.


Maurice de Greef

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

Youth unemployment figures currently stand at approximately 8.2 %. “Youth” is defined as
youngsters of 15-24 years, without work (or work with less than 12 hours a week), who are looking for a paid job for 12 hours or more a week.

Due to the fact that youth unemployment is increasing, the 4 biggest Dutch cities and an umbrella organisation for youngsters will develop several initiatives to decrease the rate of youth unemployment.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

Although the financial crisis is still a significant problem in Europe and finances of educational, social and welfare projects are under pressure adult education is still important for the Dutch educational infrastructure. In the last ten years the budget for adult education decreased significantly, but still there are opportunities to organise lifelong learning programs. Current discussion in the Netherlands is if adult education is a public or private matter.

Four Financial pillars of adult education

Nowadays adult education in the Netherlands is based on four “pillars”, namely

1.  Law of Budget for Participation: Aiming at Integration (of migrants), Re-integration (of unemployed) and Adult Education.
2.  Law of societal development (Wmo): Aiming at supporting vulnerable citizens and liveability in communities
3. Adult Secondary Education: Aiming at gaining starting-qualification(s) for the labour-market
4. Vocational training: Gaining qualifications and skills for work or employability

These four pillars ensure an infrastructure for adult education in which two laws (the first two mentioned in the list above) can be seen as the public legitimation of adult education.

Laws aiming at helping the vulnerable and unemployed

Since 2009 a new law combined the first part of the financial legislation for adult education. The Law of Budget for Participation is based on three laws aiming at an increase of participation of vulnerable adults. Specific attention is needed to curb the ongoing cumulative growth of unemployment. Therefore a part of the budget is reserved for helping vulnerable adults to find a proper job on the labour market. Secondly the Budget of Participation ensures learning for immigrants.

Special programs of integration (including an exam) are developed for new immigrants preferring a life in the Netherlands. Third the regional centres of adult education have the possibility to organise courses of adult education on several topics to improve people’s literacy and numeracy in daily life.

Besides this the second Dutch law, the Wmo, tries to help marginalised people become or remain self-reliant and participate in our society. The Wmo must give municipalities the opportunity to develop a policy in which citizens (foreigners and Dutch) can join activities in their neighbourhood and manage their daily life. Education is used as a lever for achieving an increase of social cohesion and quality of life in villages, districts and neighbourhoods.

Besides this regional centres of education have an annual budget in order to organise courses for Secondary Adult Education and vocational training. These activities strive at giving (young) adults start qualifications for entering the labour market.


Eva Tanczos

How big is youth unemployment in Hungary?

At present the rate of unemployment in the 15 –-24 age group in Hungary is 28.4 %; it has increased by 1.3 % from the previous year. 18.5 % of the pool of unemployed people on the labour market come from those between the ages of 15-24.  Every third young person in this age group is unemployed. At the beginning of 2013 the unemployment rate in the 15-74 age group was 11.2 %.

Unequal prospects

There is a significant segregation in the population with respect to their possibilities on the labour market. The main determining factor is their level of education. The employment rate increases in parallel with the level of education in the 15-24 age group: The employment rate of those with the highest level of education is 56 %, those with the middle level is 44.4 % and those with the basic education is only 19.4 %. The economic crisis most affected those with the lowest level of education.

Those with secondary education face a 2.5 times higher risk of being unemployed than those with higher education, the skilled workers 3.5 times and those with only a primary school education level face a 5 times higher risk of being unemployed.

Data provided by the National Labour Office indicates that the number of registered job-seekers at the beginning of their professional career is increasing constantly.
Young people are shifting towards education that provides higher qualifications, which is a positive trend. At the same time, however, the structural and quality issues of the qualifications have increased significantly. Parallel to the increase in the actual number and ratio of people with higher education, fewer and fewer young people – and with much lower grades – apply to vocational education schools. This contra-selection process has led to the deterioration in the quality of the vocational education/training. Today, in certain professions and in certain parts of the country there is an over-supply of people with higher education, whilst there is a shortfall in skilled workers with up-to-date training and quality.

Young people remain unemployed for longer and longer periods. Even if they are able to enter the labour market, often they are employed only on a fix-term contract or they can only undertake seasonal work.

In Hungary one of the most serious consequences of the high unemployment rate of the young people is that specifically the most active and most mobile age group is leaving the country, mostly for Austria, Germany and Great Britain. 35 % of the Hungarians migrating abroad are highly educated.  According to the latest survey conducted by TÁRKI Társadalomkutatási Intézet [Social Research Institute], 56 % of students over the age of 18 feel that their (immediate)-future will not be in Hungary.

What measures are taken to help youth into the labour market?

The Hungarian Government announced a 10-point workplace protection action plan and part thereof was to halve the employers’ contribution from 2013 for workers under 25. The purpose of these measures is to encourage employers to employ people under the age of 25.

A non-repayable financial support is a new opportunity for young people to become self-employed and this is provided to initiate an entrepreneurial activity for those who are unable to find a job for more than three months. EU and Hungarian resources are harmonised to manage this program.

Job-Seekers, registered for more than 3 months, who cannot find a job will receive housing benefits, if they find a job away from their home.
The Apprentice Support Program will help young people at the beginning of their career to obtain professional work experience. Employers can receive financial support for six months, if they employ skilled unemployed people at the start of their career.

A change in the vocational education system is in process; It aims to provide knowledge and skills for young people at the end of their education and training, which can then be utilised immediately in the labour market. Following the German example, a dual vocational education system has been introduced.
Finally, the EU-funded project “Tudásod a jövod” [Your Knowledge is your Future] was launched to help the Hungarian adult population to learn foreign languages and I.T. skills. Adults over the age of 18, who have not obtained any education in secondary or at a higher level can participate.


Sarmite Pilate

Describe the youth unemployment situation in Latvia.

The percentage of unemployed young stood at 10,2 % in February 2013. This means 11.001 young persons in age group 15-24.  In comparison with year 2012, youth unemployment has decreased by 1,6 percentage points – 4614 young persons less. In 2012 14.980 young unemployed secured regular work.

Most of the young unemployed do not have a profession and have a low level of education. More than 4000 young unemployed have only comprehensive secondary education. The State Employment Office estimates there are less than 942 young unemployed with higher education.

What remedies are used?

The aforementioned State Employment Office organizes several activities to reduce youth unemployment. In 2012 523 youths were involved in work placement activities, 859 in voluntary work and 72 in work practice.

The young unemployed also take part in other employment activities and training courses, organized by the State Employment Office.

In 2012 young people in age group 15-24 have participated in competitiveness raising activities (short courses, lectures, seminars) in following numbers:

7404 has participated in courses to upgrade professional skills;
1204 has taken part in training through voucher education funding method;
1140 has participated in non-formal education programs (acquirement of skills, necessary in work, for example – work with computer, state language, foreign languages etc);
1245 has participated in stipendiary temporary social work;
61 took part in activities for people with special needs (state co-financed employment) and
14 in activity for self-employment and entrepreneurship.


Dalia Cymbaliuk

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

With the onset of the financial and economic crisis in Lithuania in late 2008, young people found themselves in an extremely unfavourable situation: the unemployment rate grew by 22 percentage points – from 15 % to 37 %. The main reasons for this include an inadequate match between the qualifications of young people and labour market demands, the lack of practical experience, and the low wages offered in the labour market.

The inability of young people to find a place in the Lithuanian labour market has led to largescale youth emigration to other countries.  In 2009, 22 000 Lithuanian nationals, of which the age group 15-19 accounted for 37 %, declared that they were emigrating; during the first quarter of 2010, emigration rates exceeded those of 2009 by nearly 40 % in Lithuania.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

In order to improve the situation, the Government has recently launched a number of measures to enhance the educational system (vocational training in particular) and to promote the labour market integration of young people. A long-term strategy for youth policy for 2010-2018 was elaborated in 2010. Implementation of this strategy is expected to contribute to ensuring better youth employment opportunities by promoting economic and social entrepreneurship and by creating favourable conditions for young people to take an active part in the labour market. All in all, the attention given to youth problems is gradually increasing. New institutions were set up in the system of public administration, a network of youth NGOs was developed, new programmes and projects were implemented and the system of education and vocational training was improved and support for youth employment has increased.


Mary Gauci

Is Malta suffering from youth unemployment?

The Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate is 14.7 % according to a Labour Force Survey in July- Sept 2012. According to the Malta Employment and Training Corporation long-term unemployment refers to more than 6 months unemployment for youth and more than 12 months for adults. Short- term unemployment refers to less than 6 months unemployment.

Youth unemployment is a main political issue and is covered plentifully in media and also in informal conversations.  However, youth unemployment in Malta is lower than in most other EU Member States.

What are the main reasons behind youth unemployment?

The problem persists because many employers ask for experience. This is a problem since many school leavers do not have any work experience.
Furthermore, a number of young people have a low education level. Some are even illiterate or digitally illiterate.

Even transport could be a problem for young people who might not have their own car yet.
The Maltese Islands consist of two main islands: Malta, the biggest and Gozo, much smaller.
For Gozitans who would wish to work in Malta, transport is an additional burden since this takes a long time of travelling. Transport is available only by boat. Gozitans have less opportunities to work close to home, since Gozo is very restricted. Some backend operations are located in Gozo to try to alleviate this problem.

How is adult education used to improve unemployment?

The Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) offers a large range of courses to assist jobseekers to find employment and those in employment to advance in their careers by learning new skills. Flexicurity means adaptability even to switch jobs if so required. In this respect adult education is vital.
The ETC, together with the Foundation for Educational Services, is also addressing NEETs (Neither in Education, Employment or Training) through a specific programme where participants are profiled and they are given education and training according to their needs.
Discussions are currently ongoing at EU level on a Council recommendation that establishes a Youth Guarantee, that is, that Member States compel themselves to offer employment, apprenticeship, traineeship or long-term education to youth job-seekers within a defined period of being unemployed.  These rights will also apply to the Maltese NEETs programme.


Anna Walulik

What is the youth unemployment situation in Poland?

It is difficult to state categorically what group of unemployed are considered as “young unemployed” in Poland. We can assume that age is the sole criterion. However, there is no clear definition of this category. For example, the Quarterly Jobs Market Report issued by the Central Statistical Office mentions a category of employment for people aged 15 and over. Employment offices go by the Employment Promotion Act of 20 April 2004, while employment market institutions focus particularly on getting young people on to the jobs market from when they become adults (18) until they reach the age of 25.

The Ministry of Labour has launched an innovative pilot programme for people up to the age of 30. Young people are required to get support from the very first week they register as unemployed. If there are no job offers available to them, they are immediately covered by one of the schemes for getting them into the jobs market. The project includes amongst others training vouchers which allow the person and his/her adviser to find a training institute or an employer who will employ them when they complete their training. Another important element in the programme is the support given to employers who decide to take on a young unemployed person. The programme also provides relocation support for people who find jobs 80 km or more from their current residence.

The labour market institutions involved in getting young people on to the jobs market and promoting employment are: public employment services, the Volunteer Labour Corps, employment agencies, training institutes, social dialogue institutions and local partnership institutions. The Volunteer Labour Corps plays a special role with regard to young unemployed people. They are a government body which focuses on young people threatened by social exclusion and unemployed under-25s. The structure of the Volunteer Labour Corps includes organisations which are employment agents, give occupational advice and information and offer occupational training.

The largest group of registered unemployed people are those with an elementary vocational education and high school and post-high school education. At the end of 2012 this group made up 28.3 % of the total unemployed, while those with high school and post-high school education were 27.3 %.

The academic unemployed

Another major institution responsible for youth employment initiatives and projects are the Academic Career Bureaux. They focus on getting students and university graduates into employment. They are run by academic institutions or students’ organisations. Their aim and mission is to provide careers advice and to provide a professional diagnosis of the optimum routes for students to embark upon their careers and to gain practical experience and how to present themselves on the jobs market.  In December 2012 unemployed graduates made up 11.7 % of the total unemployed.

Work placement is becoming an increasingly widespread means of getting young people into work. In 2012 55% of persons found work after completing their work experience placement. In Poland unemployed people can get job offers, work experience or training within six months of registering.

Root causes of unemployment

There are many reasons for unemployment among young people, and they range in character from political to personal. One cause is unsuitable education due to poor educational and career choices by young people. Part of the problem is also the fact that the educational system does not meet the needs of the labour market. Thousands of young people study for qualifications for which there is no demand. In addition, the labour code is still too inflexible, and the costs of work and the large number of “regulated” professions is too high. Many firms are unwilling to supplement youth employment initiative funding as they see no benefit in employing persons who are only just entering the labour market. Another reason may be the lack of effective programmes to help young people obtain suitable qualifications and to encourage employers to take on young people. Gender is another factor. Since the early 1990s there has been a preponderance of women who have been unemployed compared with men. This is due to historical differences between the sexes in many areas of life and the different positions occupied by men and women on the jobs market. One of the main reasons for the diminishing chances of employment for women is the traditional approach to dividing domestic work and duties.

The external causes of unemployment often give rise to internal causes. Spending a long time looking for work discourages people and they give up looking, which in turn means turning their backs on career plans, reducing self-confidence and even losing a sense of meaning in life. This means that young people also need moral support. One source of this support is the National Volunteer Labour Corps Priesthood. Its programme was defined by Pope John Paul II: “You must make demands of yourself so that others don’t.”

The Nordic countries

Antra Carlsen

How big is youth unemployment currently in the area?

Youth unemployment rates are considerably higher than those for general unemployment in the Nordic countries. A growing number of young people in the Nordic region are at great risk of long-term exclusion from working life and society. Several Nordic mapping studies and analyses have been carried out during the period 2010-2012 and the conclusion is that despite socio-economical and cultural differences the Nordic countries would benefit from a closer cooperation and exchange of experiences when it comes to the future work of preventing unemployment among young people.

Young on the periphery report 2012

Youth unemployment rates are considerably higher than those for general unemployment in the Nordic countries. A growing number of young people in the Nordic region are at great risk of long-term exclusion from working life and society, perhaps for much of their adult lives. According to the recent Nordic report “Young People on the Periphery”:

– approximately 10 % of young people aged 15-24 are at risk of permanent exclusion. This could be a total of around 300,000 young people in the Nordic countries;

– around 2 to 5 % of this age group are already excluded. This could be a total of between approximately 70,000 and 150,000 young people in the Nordic countries.

The report claims that youth unemployment is a long-term and structural problem, but it has increased as a result of the global economic crisis. During the current crisis, many young people seeking work are now spending longer periods on labour market initiatives than previously, and fewer are entering employment after completing the initiatives. Between 40 and 50 percent of the young people that complete public labour market initiatives subsequently enter the work force or start educational programmes. The others continue on unemployment benefit or some other social security or benefit scheme. Consequently, some young people are ending up with long-term premature pensions, and this number is growing.

The highest unemployment rates in the Nordic region are in Sweden and Finland, where around 20 % of the work force (the work force is the number of people in employment plus the number of unemployed people seeking employment) in the 15-24 age group are active seekers of employment without work. This is about average for the EU. The corresponding figure for Denmark and Iceland is 15 % and for Norway around 8 %.

Still, there is a wide range of initiatives in the Nordic region securing that most young people in the Nordic countries are on educational programmes or in employment. Approximately two of every three young people in the 15-24 age group are on educational programmes, and two of three young people in the 20-24 age group are in employment. Many of the young people in education also have a part-time job. Most young people who lose their jobs find new work or enter educational programmes, often quite quickly.

Neither work or education

However, between 3 % (Iceland) and 8-9 % (Finland and Sweden) of the young people in the 15-24 age group are neither in education, work or work training programmes.
Between 2 % (Norway) and 4-5 % (Denmark, Finland, Sweden) have been unemployed for one year or longer. Approximately 2-3 % of all young people aged 20-34 are on long-term premature pension schemes or similar.

What measures are taken to fight youth unemployment?

Early measures, no cuts…

The Nordic Council of Ministers mapping study from 2010 aimed at identifying both existing and planned measures that can alleviate youth unemployment. Several of the countries, especially Finland and Iceland emphasize the importance of early and targeted guidance. In Denmark all young adults (under the age of 30) should have their first meeting and discussion at the Job Centre within the first 30 days of unemployment. This measure is regulated by the legislation since 2009. Iceland has introduced a new form of education for young people 16 – 24 years of age without a gymnasium level education. In the borderland between the labor market and education a production school has been established in Iceland, combining education and practical work experience.

The comparative analyses part of the report includes a discussion concerning lessons learned and success factors. When preventing youth unemployment, the following success factors have been identified throughout the Nordic region:

– early measures within the field of education and early labour market interventions,
– an education system adapted to individual needs,
– an effective monitoring of students,
– integrated measures and activities,
– investments in education during recessions and cooperation between actors, which work with young people.
Swedish presidency of the Nordic Cooperation 2013

Following up the Nordic reports and the discussion on the present labour market situation for the young in several of the Nordic countries, the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2013 will pay considerable attention to this issue throughout the year. (see also Lars Djernaes’ contribution in this issue) On the 16th of May 2013, a Nordic Job Summit will take place in Stockholm. One of the main purposes of the day is to, through a Job Forum encompassing a wide range of actors, highlight examples of best practices where activities, policies and projects have facilitated the introduction of young people on the labour market. The prime ministers and the labour ministers of the Nordic countries are invited to visit the Job Forum as well as participate in a conference on youth employment.

Job Forum 2013

The ambition of the Swedish presidency is to present about 25 different Nordic actors at the Job Forum. These actors must, in different ways, have successfully contributed to young people entering the labour market. The goal is that these Nordic actors will cover a wide range of areas; such as:

– public authorities,
– training providers,
– professional associations,
– employers
– projects.

What they should have in common is that their methods have achieved positive results within the area of youth employment during the last few years. The selected actors will be invited to present their cases at the Job Forum. There will also be mini-seminars and workshops held.

More information about effects needed

There is a need to know what long-term effects have been achieved and when. Long-term effects are defined as the ways in which the people concerned by the project have moved on to employment. The authors of the Nordic mapping studies admit that we know a little, but we do not have much compiled and systematic information about what types of initiative are most effective in relation to work and inclusion. More research is needed – preferably cooperative – about results and effects of various programmes and initiatives.

Also close monitoring with the help of statistical comparable data is essential in dealing more efficiently with youth unemployment.

There seems to be potential in evaluating the projects more systematically, and compiling, systematizing and disseminating experiences and knowledge. Setting up of a Nordic pool of experience involving examples of “good practice” and experimental projects has been proposed. There is potential for greater cooperation and for Nordic countries to learn from each other.


Klaudius Šilhár

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

Low availability of further education, crisis job market and the poor links between the education system and the job market also contribute to youth unemployment in Slovakia. The youth unemployment rate is at 35.90 %, compared to 32.90 % last year. This is higher than the long term average of 31.21%. The jobless rate among young people in Slovakia was the fifth highest in the European Union in November 2012 when one in three Slovaks under the age of 25 was without work, according to data presented by the Eurostat statistics office.

Youth unemployment in Slovakia is primarily due to a skills mismatch in the labour market. Schools and universities produce large numbers of graduates with skills that are little in demand. On the other hand, graduates with technical skills are scarce. Slovakia exhibits some of the highest school enrolment rates in Europe, but one should look at unemployment ratios, i.e. the share of unemployed in the total youth population. By this measure, Slovakia’s position of 10 percent looks somewhat better, with eight EU member states reporting a worse situation, including Spain and Latvia, but also Sweden and the UK. Nevertheless, youth unemployment is a serious challenge for policymakers.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

Adult education in Slovakia functions more or less on the basis of free market principles and is not financially supported by the state. Providers and lecturers work freelance, and there are no official minimum standards for neither of them. Several initiatives aim at improving this situation.

Though the EU Council has made suggestions in which it specifically states that the Slovak Republic should create a framework of incentives for employers and individuals in order to support less educated people’s participation in the process of lifelong learning, the financing or support of adult education in Slovakia is not yet being dealt with.
This fact influences not only high-risk target groups’ access to adult education, but also the adult education content available.

The prevalent themes in adult education are those which participants will use to grow professionally. They are mostly interested in educational activities which can be characterized as professional education, re-qualification or continuous education.

Even in the case of the preferred subject of further professional education, the sphere of action is limited; Slovakia lacks qualification and evaluation standards which would make it easier to categorise partial or complete qualifications in terms of basic education.


Peter Beltram

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

Youth unemployment in Slovenia should be addressed from several points of view. A very high unemployment rate in the country is one of the most important and concerning problems we are facing at the moment. The share of unemployed within active population has reached 12 % by the end of 2012, which means that almost 120 thousand people are jobless. The structure of unemployed is worrying as well: almost a half of them (45,6 %) are long-term unemployed (registered as unemployed for over one year), over a third (34,4 %) are low qualified (elementary school or below), 15 % are first job seekers, a third (34 %) are over 50 years old and 11,7 % are younger than 25.

Youth unemployment decreasing but…

Although the share of the young unemployed is not very high and has even dropped in the past five years (almost 17 % in 2007, when total number of unemployed was 70 thousand), it opens other points of view. The picture that might make these points clear and understandable can be figured out from the graph below:

Graph 1

Source: Statistical Office of Slovenia

It makes obvious why the share of the young unemployed is relatively low: a majority of young people are enrolled in tertiary educational programmes. This fact as such could be very positive if it didn’t reveal another problem: a very low performance rate regarding tertiary educational attainment. In 2011 there were 24.440 regular students, entering higher education and only 10.478 graduates. The average age of regular students in higher education is 22,6 years and the average length of study is 5,8 years.  So a substantial number of young people are just officially not treated as unemployed because they are students, although their studies last much too long or are even not successful at all, as regards educational attainment.

The other problem which can be identified from the graph, although not directly linked to the addressed issue, is a shocking share of inactive citizens 55+.

Another crucial problem young people are facing is short-term, non-permanent job agreements which prevail in all sectors of economy (with some exceptions in public sector). The share of short-term agreements has even increased, from 78 % (2008) to 83 % (2012) of all registered job agreements. There are quite some substantial issues linked to this fact, e.g. housing (you cannot get any loans if you are not permanently employed) and raising families which is closely linked to housing. This is a problem that generates also the one we have mentioned above: long term student’s status and staying at home with their parents up to their early thirties.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

Problems connected to employment of young people are very often discussed at all levels of public institutions and present in media as well. The awareness of this problem is high. Unfortunately there are no indicators which would allow more optimistic views for the future, although some initiatives have already been taken in this direction: the first and important is that in the new legislation on employment policy, the discrepancy between short-term and permanent job agreements will hopefully be regulated and overcome in some respect, and the second deals with more restrictive approach towards »student’s job« engagements. On the other hand it is very likely that the above mentioned long-term enrolment in tertiary education will be limited, at least as far as entitlement to public financing is concerned.

The problem of low qualification or low educational attainment of young unemployed is not a very severe problem in Slovenia, which means that the main problem is not employability but lack of jobs. Those who are in need for new skills have several possibilities for acquiring knowledge and competencies. Most of these are offered within Active employment policy measures, conducted by the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs. They include formal education on the upper-secondary level, as well as on the job training, re-skilling or upgrading competencies. Most of these measures are co-financed by the European Social Fund.


Emin Bakay

How big is youth unemployment currently in your country?

Youth unemployment constitutes a major problem, as the youth’s share of the Turkish population is about 62 % and in working age.

According to the Turkish Statistic Institute (updated on 13 Feb. 2013) the number of the unemployed increased by 201.000 in November 2012 and has reached 2 million 630.000 in Turkey. The total figure of unemployment is 9.4 % with 0.3 percentage points increase compared to the same period of the previous year.

Youth unemployment rate is 18.8 % with a 1.8 % increase. The youth unemployment rate of Turkey is nearly twice the level of the total unemployment rate and considering the economic growth rates in recent years, there is not a healthy and sustainable reduction in youth unemployment rates. The problem is worse for women than men, from a global perspective based on data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat).

University graduates in dire straits

According to the same data, the youth unemployment rate in Turkey rises instead of falling as the level of education increases, similar to the situation in North Africa and the Middle East. In 2011, the rates of Turkish youth unemployment by level of education were: 11.2 percent in primary school; 14.1 percent in junior high school or equivalent vocational school; 21.2 percent in vocational school; 21.2 percent at high school level; 22.4 percent in high school; and 30 percent in university and other higher educational institutions. The high rate of unemployment amongst university-educated youth reflects their high labor-force participation rate. So, the more education young Turks get the greater the average risk that they will be unemployed.

The ILO report “Time for Action” offers three reasons for the high rate of university-educated youth unemployment. First is the increasing quantity but decreasing quality of higher education that results in the degradation of the diplomas awarded. Second is the lack of skills or skills that do not fit the jobs available as well as the non-marketability of the skills that are gained. Third is the failure of macro and micro economics, especially labor market regulation and policies to achieve growth patterns that are essential to creating good quality jobs, which match the skills and aspirations of university-educated youth. All three reasons apply in Turkey’s case although their relative importance is debatable.

To understand how unemployment affects Turkish society and how its rate is distributed among youth, one must be aware of the Turkish labor market’s three inter-connected salient features. Rural-urban migration is yet to be completed. Average education level is low. Labor force participation rates (LFPR) are the lowest in the OECD region. Its female LFPR is currently 28%, which is an anomaly in its income group of countries, upper middle income according to World Development Indicators online database of the World Bank.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

The Turkish government’s policies on unemployment are expected to create more new jobs from nowadays until 2018. In addition, growth will be faster among occupations for which postsecondary education is the most significant form of education or training, and, across all occupations, replacement needs will create many more job openings than will job growth.

These expectations have strong implications for designing effective education and training policies for joblessness, especially for the women and the youth in Turkey. Increasing of educational skills of youth will be a key point in that direction. Turkey is not likely to remain an economy where such low skills will continue to be in demand.

EU level

Christina Gerlach

How big is youth unemployment currently in the area?

Employment rates for young people fell by 5 % over the last four years, which means three times as much as for adults. According to the European Commission, some 5.5 million young people on the labour market cannot find a job; 7.5 million aged 15-24 are not in employment, education or training. Since 2008 the number of unemployed young people under 25 that have been unemployed for more than 12 months has increased from 0.9 million to 1.6 million in 2011.

Recent figures also show an increasing inactivity among young people resulting from discouragement – these young people want to work but have given up looking for employment. Young people who are employed increasingly find themselves in part-time employment and on temporary contracts. As a result, they are disproportionally among the so called “working poor”. In its 2012 report on “Global Employment Trends” the International Labour Organisation predicts substantial long-term consequences of youth unemployment: The current situation contributes to lowering the career path expectations of young people entering the labour market and the diminution of the incentives for the coming generation to take up long and expensive studies. Ironically, never before have young people in Europe been better educated and trained than today.

The reasons for youth unemployment are manifold and differ strongly between the Member States. However, certain factors have been identified: Development of skills and qualifications, the economic situation or mismatch of supply and demand on the labour market. Regarding the correlation between youth unemployment and education and training one can state that low qualified young people are still facing a higher risk of being unemployed than high qualified young people.

How does the EU fight youth unemployment?

Facing these figures and trends, the issue has reached higher status in political debates and is part of European youth, education and employment policies. In 2010, the European Commission launched the Europe 2020 strategy which includes two education targets: Reducing school drop-out rates below 10 % and increasing the rate of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education to at least 40 %.

At the end of 2012, the European Commission has published a number of initiatives aiming at fighting youth unemployment in Europe. In October, the Commission made a proposal for a better recognition on non-formal and informal learning and called on the Member States to establish national systems of validation in order to create jobs and growth. Originally announced within the context of the “Youth on the move” initiative, the proposal now covers all kind of non-formal and informal education. The Commission argues that learning opportunities outside the formal system can contribute to a better match of skills and jobs.

The new EU strategy “Rethinking Education: Inventing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes” (presented in November 2012) aims at reducing the skills mismatches the European Commission has spotted on the labour market in Europe. The issue has been announced of being of direct relevance to the package on Youth Employment launched in December 2012. A proposal for Youth Guarantee schemes in the Member States is at the heart of the package. The Commission wants to ensure that all young people up to age 25 receive a quality offer of a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.

How is adult education linked to the issue of youth unemployment?

Adult education is already among the objects of recent EU strategies and measures against (youth) unemployment although strategies tackling youth unemployment are mostly directed at young people up to age 25. Especially young graduates will hardly be reached. Adult education could therefore play a crucial role in future strategies against youth unemployment.


This article was produced in cooperation with InfoNet adult education network.

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