In the absence of legislative competency on the issue, the European Commission has once again urged member states to fight against the rise of youth unemployment. On 20 December 2011, it published a communication entitled Youth opportunities initiative'.
The communication relates to preventing early school leaving; helping youngsters develop skills relevant to the labour market; ensuring work experience and on-the-job training; and helping young people find a first good job. "Long-term reforms of labour markets are clearly needed, but they take time to produce the expected results. With today's initiative we are developing more immediate action that will help drive down youth unemployment," said the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. In answer to criticism of the Commission's lack of ambition, Laszlo Andor, the commissioner for employment and social affairs, said: "It is not about heavy artillery, it is about proposing targeted measures in order to deliver rapid results and to lay down the foundations of durable employment. The importance of new types of actions - even on a small scale - should not be underestimated". Andor underlined that current youth unemployment rates (estimated at 21% in the EU) represent a burden on society worth about 2 billion each week, or just over 1% of EU27 GDP.
The first series of measures concerns the European Social Fund (ESF), which still has 30 billion uncommitted to projects for the 2007-2014 period. The Commission encourages member states - including Greece, Italy and Lithuania, which in spite of a high unemployment rate do not focus the ESF on youth - to make better use of the fund. The EU executive has committed to allocating 1.3 billion, under the ESF's technical assistance programme, to organise work experience as well as a further 3 million to put in place support systems for young people creating businesses and social entrepreneurs.
The second series of measures aims to facilitate the transition between...