The figures are scary. Almost every fourth young person under the age of 25 was registered unemployed last year across the Euro area. In some countries, such as Greece, the economic crisis has seen the youth unemployment rate shoot up to 50 percent or more.
Creating opportunities for young people
While limited labour market mobility and skills might only be partially responsible for the high youth unemployment rates, overcoming these restrictions might offer one of the keys to unlocking and tackling what is a complex human, economic and social disaster.
That is why the EPP Group is putting all its weight behind creating as many opportunities for young people.
Thanks to the work of EPP Group Member and Chairwoman of the European Parliament's Culture Committee, Doris Pack (Germany), the EU will commit 14.7 billion Euros to the Erasmus and other exchange programmes in the 2014 to 2020 programming period.
Improving language and intercultural skills to better meet job requirements
For sure overall unemployment rates, especially in those countries hard-hit by the crisis, will only fall once economies regain competitiveness.
But helping young people to go abroad with the help of an exchange programme will enable them to learn foreign languages, acquaint themselves with other cultures and develop a sense for the opportunities Europe offers. Not least, companies nowadays do ask for study or work experience abroad on the CVs of job applicants.
Improving skills is therefore a key component of any serious and long-term attempt to combat youth unemployment.
Student exchanges can give young people, such as Polish student Jan Baranski, who is on an Erasmus exchange in Leuven, in Belgium, an edge in the labour market. As Baranski explains, it is also about broadening horizons and learning about different cultures.
"Erasmus goes far beyond an academic programme. It’s primarily a cultural and social experience that strengthens European identity. It’s a must for a young open-minded generation."
A new umbrella fund for all EU exchange programmes
At its next plenary session, on Tuesday 19 November, the European Parliament will vote on the 'Erasmus+' programme, which Doris Pack steered through Parliament. 'Erasmus+' is the new umbrella fund for all EU-funded exchange programmes.
The original Erasmus programme for student exchanges is the most well-known, but the EU doesn't only support university students - it supports young people from all walks of life. The Erasmus+ fund also includes other programmes offering exchange opportunities for schools (Comenius), vocational training (Leonardo da Vinci), or world-wide student exchanges (Erasmus Mundus), as well as life-long learning in the framework of the Grundtvig programme.
A European success story will continue
The success of these measures is well-documented. Take Erasmus, which enables students in higher education to spend between 3 and 12 months in another European country. In the 2011/12 academic year, no fewer than 252 000 students and 46 500 staff received EU help to go abroad for studies, job placements, teaching or training.
Pack's report on Erasmus+ will be subject to plenary vote on Tuesday 19 November.
Erasmus+, the new umbrella fund for 2014-2020, will then allow even more young people to gain the skills they need to find a job - showing clearly what Europe can do to help young people.