We know from many scholarly studies that the beginning of a lifetime of gainful employment is frequently the stage where young adults establish the foundations for the level of self-determination, prosperity, or conversely relative poverty (in old age) and social marginalization they will face over the course of their lives.
A resolute, comprehensive political response addressing both youth unemployment as well as the precarious nature of existing jobs is therefore absolutely imperative for a Social Europe, a healthy society and social systems which are viable over the long term. Young people whose periods of gainful employment are interrupted generally earn a lower income during their entire working lives. The risk of renewed unemployment is moreover considerably greater. Unemployment today is thus frequently followed by a precarious situation tomorrow. On top of this, young people need a certain degree of planning security and financial security if they are to establish autonomous lives or have a family.
When a significant percentage of the young generation continues to be excluded from a society based on the principle of solidarity and as a result lacks the financial means to make a contribution to the social system of this very society, youth employment is undermining the very foundations of the European welfare state.
To confront this desolate situation, the EU is only planning on making €6 billion available over the next 7 years. By way of comparison, the EU was willing to fork out over € 700 billion to bail out insolvent banks. The President of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, was therefore right on the money when he stressed that the young generation is just as ‘system-critical as banks’.
We cannot afford to sacrifice the young generation, otherwise the realization of our ‘vision’ for a social and just Europe will become more elusive than ever. That is why combating alarmingly high youth unemployment must be made one of the common strategic priorities of the European Union’s and its member states’ policies. The objective must be to slash youth unemployment in Europe over the next few years. To this end, binding targets and goals need to be agreed without delay.
* Read our interview with Mr Huber.