The European Commission is diversifying its efforts to tackle unemployment in the EU: it has proposed a new set of measures to improve young people's skills and help them get a foothold on the job market. The Commission's Youth employment package' is based on four key initiatives: 1. proposing a Council recommendation establishing a youth guarantee; 2. launching the second stage of a consultation with social partners on a quality framework for traineeships; 3. creating a European alliance for apprenticeships; and 4. developing an intregrated mobility set for young people (EURES).

Presenting the initiative on 5 December, Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Laszlo Andor pointed to catastrophic youth employment statistics: in 2011, unemployment rates among young people reached 25% in 13 member states, while in Greece and Spain they climbed to more than 55%, and to 30% or more in Italy, Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary and Slovakia.

The only concrete legislative measure in the package provides for the introduction of a youth guarantee' in all member states, as proposed by Finland and Austria. More specifically, the recommendation encourages member states to provide all young people up to the age of 25 with a good quality offer of employment, continued education and an apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed. It calls on member states to establish solid partnerships with stakeholders, to ensure the intervention of employment services at an early stage, to take measures to assist professional integration, to make full use of the European Social Fund and other Structural Funds to this end, to evaluate and constantly improve the measures for youth within the guarantee, and to implement them in good time.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the total cost of youth guarantee schemes for young people within the eurozone is equivalent to 0.45% of its GDP, or 21 million. "This represents a certain cost, but is nothing compared with the cost of inaction. According to Eurofund, the cost of youth unemployment is more than 150 billion a year, or 1.2% of GDP," said Andor.

The first discussion of this text should take place during the Employment and Social Affairs Council, on 6 December, with a view to reaching an agreement at the end of February 2013. Once it has been adopted, the implementation of guarantees for young people will be evaluated within the framework of the...

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