Tackling youth unemployment across the EU


This article was recently published on LexisUK.

Employment analysis Is dedicated EU funding enough to effectively tackle youth unemployment across EU member states? Aneeqa Ali of Simpson Millar comments on the realities of addressing youth employment at a national level and how it might affect the next generation of legal professionals.

Report: Youth unemployment in the EU--A scarred generation?, LNB News 10/04/2014 129

The government is being called on by the Lord's EU Committee to adopt the EU's flagship youth unem-ployment scheme the 'Youth Guarantee', which would require the government to ensure all young people find suitable work, training or further education opportunities within four months of being unemployed. The recommendation is one of a number the Committee has suggested in its latest report in order to tackle youth unemployment, which it claims has 'scarred' a generation of young people across Europe. The Committee believes the government should move away from its centralised management of EU funds and make the most of local authorities' and Local Enterprise Partnerships' links with specialist organisations in their areas.

What are the key findings of the report?

The European Union Committee's twelfth report on youth unemployment in the European Union was published on 10 April 2014. As at February 2014, the rate of youth unemployment stood at 22.9% across the 28 member states. The report concludes that the current high levels of youth unemployment in the EU are not solely attributable to the 2008 global financial crisis and recession. Rather, it suggests the cause of youth unemployment in member states is a result of 'underlying structural issues' drawn out by the financial crisis.

The report states that in the UK, the structure of the labour market--resulting from factors such as the decline of the manufacturing sector in the 1980s and 1990s and the technological change in the labour market--has had an impact on youth unemployment.

The report recommends that member states adopt long and short-term initiatives to address this ongoing crisis. The Committee is particularly concerned about 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) in the UK who risk becoming invisible to the authorities because they do not declare that they are actively seeking work--and also because they are not entitled to income support until they reach the age of 18. The Committee recommends the UK government uses EU funds which would help identify and propose solutions for this age group.

The EU recognises that ultimately member states are responsible for addressing youth employment at national level. However, the Committee believes the EU should have a continuing role in providing funding and other ways of assisting member states in reducing youth unemployment through methods such as encouraging member states to share good practice among themselves and the use of funding for particular tasks which help to bring about structural changes. The funding should be used to set up new initiatives or in devising new methods to tackle this problem.

What are the recommendations suggested in the report?

The Committee recommends that the UK seeks assistance from the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), a scheme set up in February 2013 by the European Council which dedicates EUR 3bn to alleviating youth unemployment. The scheme targets regions within the EU which have youth unemployment rates of more than 25% (of which there are five in the UK). Under this initiative, up to 10% of the funding can be allocated to young people residing in sub-regions where there is high youth unemployment but which are not 25%.

The Committee also recommends that the UK takes advantage of the European Social Fund (ESF) which is the main funding source used by the EU and member states for creating employment opportunities and supporting measures for young people, NEETs and the socially excluded. This could focus on areas such as outer London, which would not be eligible for support under the YEI.

The youth employment package was adopted by the European Council in 2012. The youth employment package (which is not obligatory on member states) recommends a youth guarantee. The aim of the youth guarantee is to ensure that within four months of a young person aged under 25 leaving formal education or becoming unemployed, they are guaranteed a 'good-quality' offer of employment, further education, apprenticeship or training. Member states who would benefit from the YEI were asked to submit a youth guarantee implementation plan by the end of December 2013. The Committee recommends that the UK implement a pilot youth guarantee in the five areas with youth unemployment over 25% which will receive funding under the YEI.

The Committee also recommended that the UK's funding in this area focuses on disadvantaged or long-term unemployed young people. The UK should also concentrate on young people who are struggling to find work suited to them. Funding should be focused on young people who are the most difficult to reach. The UK should also assist highly-skilled young people who are 'underemployed' as these individuals prevent other people from accessing entry-level jobs.

The report also supports the development of apprenticeships, traineeships and internships to reduce youth unemployment, but it states internships should not be offered as a replacement for employment.

On carrying out an evaluation of the use of EU finding, the Committee recommends that the ESF schemes should not be centred on the cost and number of participants. Rather, the focus should be on evaluating the programmes on the extent of their impact on the youth job market over a prolonged period and concentrate on determining how and why particular actions are successful. The Committee recommends that the European Commission should provide this evaluation to member states every five years.

What effect will the problem of youth unemployment have on the future generation of lawyers?

A career in law is regarded as one of the most competitive to secure. A large number of Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates find themselves unemployed or not being able to find a legal job after graduation. Law graduates also find themselves working on very low wages as paralegals, or completely give up on ever qualifying because they are unable to obtain a training contract or pupillage to qualify. Law graduates undertaking paralegal positions block out opportunities for non-graduates who can also undertake legal work.

Furthermore, with the increase of tuition fees for universities and the fees for the LPC and BPTC, fewer individuals are able to afford to pursue this career, leading to the profession becoming less socially diverse. In December 2013, the Law Society Gazette reported an 8.4% drop in the number of students enrolled on the full-time LPC course in the year 2013/14 compared to the previous year.

How have current policies impacted on lawyers?

Legal aid cuts and the effect of the Legal Services Act 2007 have also had a huge impact on law firms, many of whom have now stopped recruiting law graduates or trainees. However, the legal services market has seen a heavy investment in apprenticeships for school leavers and the new 'Higher Apprenticeship' which can lead to individuals becoming fee earners and paralegals.

Issuing Department: House of Lords European Union Committee
Jurisdiction: England; European Union; Northern Ireland; Scotland; Wales
Website: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldselect/ldeucom/164/164.pdf

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