European youth unemployment (and internships) skyrocket.

The economic crisis has hit Europe’s youth extremely hard. The highest unemployment rates compared to the overall population are amongst younger people. The fear is that things are not going to change for at least another year

On average, 22 percent of young people in the European Union are out of work. Spain has the worst situation, with almost 50 percent unemployment amongst the younger generation. Across the EU, youth joblessness is about twice as high as overall unemployment.

The UK based National Apprenticeship Service suggest there will be an increase in apprenticeships over the next few months. 81% of UK employers apparently say the placements will play a ‘bigger part’ in their recruitment strategy in the future, while another three-quarters reckon that apprentices are ‘more important than ever’, despite the economic crisis.

The internship is the new graduate job

While there may not be many jobs, there are countless internships in most European countries. Job seekers are now looking to internships as ways to boost their work experience and hope to eventually get a job that way.

However, there are risks involved. Many companies are using internships as a source of cheap labour. “So many of my friends have done four or five internships,” said a 27-year-old trainee at a large automotive company in Southern Germany, who preferred not to give his name. “They have years of experience. And when they actually apply for a job, the internships are not counted as work experience in many cases.”

Experts generally agree that internships are increasingly replacing entry-level jobs. The main reason for this trend is clear: It saves businesses huge amounts of money in wage costs.

EU heads of state discuss

Youth joblessness was on the agenda when the EU heads of state and government met recently in Brussels. At the meeting, member states were requested to prepare national job plans, including providing a youth guarantee, which will ensure young people have a job or are in training within four months of leaving school.

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, explained that countries with high youth unemployment will get special attention. “The Commission will establish action teams for member states with above-average youth unemployment – namely, the eight countries that are more affected by this problem,” he said.

There is general concern, however, that the 22 billion euros ($29 billion) set aside for the project are not enough to make a difference. Barroso admitted this is just a quick fix that cannot replace long-term reforms.

Analysts advise that when considering changes, it’s useful to look at the EU countries with the lowest youth unemployment: Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Ilaria Maselli of the Cener for European Policy Studies in Brussels says that the better youth employment figures in Germany are due to the healthy economic situation there, in comparison to the rest of Europe.

“In Austria and the Netherlands, it’s more a matter of the institutions,” she explained. “They have labor market systems that are very friendly both to employers and the employees.”

An uncertain future

The EU wants her member states to do more for the young unemployed, but is this a realistic aim, or just sabre rattling and window dressing? So far the EU has been very good at creating law after law, but has it actually done anything for the European workforce, apart from creating red tape?

Should it not be better to reduce the amount of red tape, make is easier for companies to operate and easier for the workforce to work wherever they want? At the moment it is almost impossible to build up a pension if you have worked in different European countries. You end up with a patchwork of small pension pots, not amounting to much.

If the EU wants to address unemployment in the EU they should look at and address the causes first, rather than producing even more state intervention. There is a reason why the USA is bouncing back so quickly after the crash…..

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