Europe launches $10bn youth jobless drive
Brussels, June 28, 2013
European leaders agreed on Thursday to set aside around 8 billion euros ($10.42 billion) to combat youth unemployment, even as they admitted that the labour market would only sustainably improve once the crisis-hit region returns to growth.
More than three years of financial turmoil and belt tightening has sent joblessness soaring across southern, central and eastern Europe, with young people the hardest hit.
Youth unemployment in Greece and Spain is hovering near 60 percent, while in Italy and Portugal it stands above 40 percent. Overall, close to six million people between the ages of 15 and 24 are without a job, sparking talk of a "lost generation" and fears of destabilising social unrest.
At a summit, leaders agreed to disburse about 8 billion euros - more than the 6 billion originally earmarked in February - to fight youth joblessness, with the bulk available over a two-year period starting in 2014 and the remainder becoming available over the full seven years of the next EU budget.
The funds will form the basis of a "Youth Guarantee" that aims to provide a job, training or apprenticeship to young people within four months of their leaving school, full-time education or becoming unemployed.
Economists have derided the scheme as a public relations exercise, and even the leaders conceded the plan would have little impact unless member states took action themselves.
"It's a lot of money, but of course everybody must understand that the main responsibility lies in the hands of governments, and the tools must be used or taken at the national level," said Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen. "European solutions can partially help, but it is not the main story."
Germany, which as the bloc's biggest economy has led the response to the crisis, has been particularly aggressive in pushing the jobs plan, concerned that it might get blamed for any jobless-related social unrest. - Reuters