Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, Europe’s financial, social and political system has been put under continuous pressure. The economic crisis caused an alarming rise in unemployment, especially among young people. Youth unemployment has increased to over 23% within the EU-28 in 2013, and in some southern Member States, with a rate of over 50%, the situation is extreme. The youth unemployment rate is more than twice as high as the average, with the chances of finding a job as a young person being much lower. Although tackling unemployment is mainly the responsibility of Member States, the EU should nevertheless use all available means to remedy this situation.
The EPP Group believes that Europe cannot allow the loss of entire generations - millions of unemployed youth. They must be integrated into the labour market using a set of specific policies, economic incentives, social programmes, education and training. Europe’s future depends on them. The EPP Group has been continuously fighting hard and taking an active role in addressing this challenge.
1. Mobilisation of finance to tackle the record level of youth unemployment:
- The EPP Group supported the Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantee which aim to help millions of young people find a job. With a budget of €6 billion from 2014 to 2020, the European Social Fund (ESF) will financially support national measures to help people under 25 to find job offers within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed, as well as assisting them in receiving further qualifications or training.
- More funding and a more efficient European Social Fund: The ESF is the main financial instrument at EU level supporting social programmes. It helps to increase people’s adaptability and improves their access to the labour market by helping young people make the transition from school to work. It also supports training for less-skilled jobseekers. The EPP Group worked on a simplifying revision of the ESF rules and how it works, resulting in better uptake by targeted groups. The EPP Group also supported the allocation of a much higher share of the Cohesion Fund to the ESF fund tackling unemployment. In the next multiannual financial framework, 23.1% of the Cohesion Fund will be allocated to the ESF rather than the proposed 16%. This constitutes a great success, as a huge proportion of these resources can be used for youth integration programmes.
- European Social Fund (ESF) to improve job prospects: The ESF supports projects for young people involving individual career guidance, CV writing and interview skills, and such projects often accompany the jobseeker throughout the job application process and beyond into the first few months of work. Another focus of ESF activities is mobility. A number of projects are giving young people the language skills and work experience abroad that can help them move around the EU to places where their skills and qualifications are needed.
In the future the EPP Group will concentrate its efforts in making the implementation of the new European regulations on the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Globalisation Fund more dynamic and efficient. The EPP Group will work to develop policies to provide career guidance for unemployed people and facilitate their transition to work by focussing on specific groups and favouring the individual approach. We will also continue to focus on young people with disabilities, disadvantaged groups, post-graduates, young researchers and young entrepreneurs.
2. Fighting poverty and social exclusion
Social investment takes many forms, including active labour market policies, education and life-long learning, social inclusion measures, support for active ageing, and the fight against discrimination and poverty. Social investments bring both economic and social returns. Inclusiveness of labour markets and societies is key to growth potential in the EU. It improves the supply side of the economy as well as aggregate demand.
In recent years poverty and social exclusion have been growing as a result of the crisis. According to Eurostat, in 2011, 24% of European citizens were threatened by poverty, a total of 120 million people. This includes 27% of all children in Europe, 20.5% of people over 65, and 9% of those with a job. 17% of Europeans live on less than 60% of their country's average household income. 10% of Europeans live in households where no one has a job. The EPP Group has pushed for active social policy measures to counteract this unacceptable situation.
- Social Investment Pact: The EPP Group has strongly supported the Social Investment Pact, which includes measures to help disadvantaged groups and enhance social inclusion, notably initiatives such as the Social Business Initiative or "Investing in Children” which includes measures to improve the impact of educational systems.
- Social and professional integration of people with disabilities: The EPP Group has promoted a new framework for the social and professional integration of people with disabilities into the labour market. The overall aim of this strategy is to empower people with disabilities so that they can enjoy their full rights, and fully benefit from participating in society and in the European economy, notably through the single market. This strategy identifies actions at EU level to supplement national ones and focuses on eliminating barriers. Eight main areas for action have been prioritised: Accessibility, Participation, Equality, Employment, Education and training, Social protection, Health, and External action.