Η Ευρώπη πρέπει να επικεντρωθεί στις ανάγκες των πολιτών της. Η Ευρωπαϊκή κρίση αποδεικνύει στους πολίτες πόσο μεγάλη επιρροή έχει η Ευρώπη στις ζωές τους. Αυτό ισχύει ειδικά για τους νέους.
A social Europe does not come about on the drawing board – only a concerted effort will allow it to develop. The path to another Europe, a social one, therefore has to start with the concrete needs and concerns of its citizens. The current crisis is showing the people of Europe just how great an impact Europe has on them like never before. This especially holds true for Europe’s younger generation.
It is indeed the case that Europe’s young people are bearing the brunt of the crisis and the unilateral belt-tightening measures being taken by the Euro states. Soaring unemployment among youths in Europe has assumed massive proportions and is hence one of the fundamental problems faced by European societies.
Europe can only legitimise itself over the long haul if it banishes the problem of youth unemployment. It is time for a Social Europe meriting the name instead of merely paying lip service to it to once again offer young people in Europe prospects for social and economic progress. Social and economic fears and anxieties on the part of the young generation have to finally be taken seriously. A mounting number of young people in Europe think that EU policy above all panders to business enterprises and lobbyists. As a result, the European Union’s policies are frequently perceived as dire threats. This tarnishes the attractiveness of the ‘European Project’.
It is without a doubt one of the most blatant contradictions of our age that the best-educated younger generation in the history of Europe either does not have any work or is only employed in poorly paid, insecure jobs. The youth unemployment rate averages 23.4% in the 27 EU countries at present and is thus roughly twice the rate as for adults. 7.5 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 as well as another 6.5 million young people between 25 and 29 were either out of work or were undergoing vocational training in schools in 2012. In some southern European countries hit hardest by the crisis such as Spain or Greece, for instance, more than one out of every two persons between 15 and 24 does not have a job. Even in Sweden, considered to be a shining example of a modern welfare state down to the present, almost one in every four young persons does not have work.
Never before have Europe’s youths faced such dismal future prospects. It is becoming ever more difficult to get a foothold in working life, while young employees with atypical or precarious jobs are fast becoming nothing more than a flexible labour pool to be hired and fired at will. Europe’s youths thus face the peril of becoming a lost generation. This is undermining trust and confidence in one of Europe’s key pledges – that each generation will have the possibility of employment and economic advancement. Not only does this jeopardize the social cohesion of our societies. European unification may also suffer setbacks if especially young people, who are supposed to carry the ideal of a united Europe into the future, associate Europe above all with unemployment and an erosion of social standards.
The problem of unemployment among youths is putting the very essence of the European Project to the test. When millions of talented people are fighting against a bleak future, the very foundations of the European welfare state are at stake.
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.
Anyone who means business about combating youth unemployment in Europe must above all reform the labour markets with their deep rifts and bring about a new order. To achieve this requires regulation and limits on atypical and precarious jobs as well as low wages. Normal, permanent employment agreements must become the norm once again. Beyond this, measures need to be taken to curb wage discrimination. The principle of ‘the same wage for the same work at the same place’ must apply throughout Europe.
In addition to labour-market policy, additional binding measures must be taken in order to turn the tide on youth unemployment. At the heart of this are the following:
• a European program to start up immediately aimed at combating youth unemployment and providing financial resources to make the EU’s ‘youth guarantee’ a reality, i.e. to guarantee the right to initial or further training within a period of 4 months after receiving a secondary school graduation certificate.
• a growth program for Europe instead of one-sided austerity policies.
• a change in course in educational policy characterised by:
• higher levels of investment in education and training,
• job-creation and further training measures for the period of at least one year,
• fostering and expanding the dual training system,
Young people are the most important capital the European Union has. They are Europe’s societal and economic foundations for the future. It is only through a resolute change in course towards a Social Europe based on solidarity that we will be successful in improving economic and social prospects for young Europeans and getting them back on board behind the European Project.