Almost one in four young people in the European Union are currently unemployed. In Greece this figure hits 57%, in Spain 56%, in Ireland it is 29%. In total 5.5 million young people are unemployed across Europe and emigration is rife, with people leaving Ireland in numbers not seen since the Famine. In the face of this crisis the European Union has no solution to offer, its latest proposal a ‘Youth Guarantee’ is nothing more than wishful thinking.
The Irish government plan to make this one of the central concerns of their programme during the EU Presidency. The concept behind it is that within four months of becoming unemployed a young person would be ‘guaranteed’ a job offer, further education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. Sounds too good to be true? Well that’s because it is.
This idea is the result of much hand-wringing and crocodile tears about a ‘lost generation’ across Europe. However, the real motivation behind it is the fear that was sent through the European establishment by the movements of the young and unemployed which swept much of Europe over the last two years, from the Indignados in Spain and Italy, to the Enraged in Greece, the massive general strikes in Portugal and student movements in other European countries. With no prospect for a decent future, a process of radicalisation is occurring among young people which could explode at any time. Fearing this and looking to stem protest, the EU has come up with this far-fetched proposal.
Role of the EU
Far from being part of the solution, the policies being implemented by the EU are part of the problem. The EU is driving vicious austerity across the continent. These policies are being implemented to protect the interests of the banks and bondholders at the expense of working class people. This is one of the contradictions of the ‘Youth Guarantee’, while wanting to offer unemployed young people college or training places, the austerity policies being implemented are resulting in rising college fees and cuts to the numbers of training places, in effect putting education and training beyond the reach of many young people.
To believe that the EU is prepared to pursue draconian austerity on the one hand, while pumping the necessary funds into this scheme to make it work with the other is naive.
A glorified JobBridge for Europe
If the solution to the unemployment crisis was as easy as the EU saying that they will guarantee a job offer for young people then why are there record levels of unemployment across Europe? It begs the question: where will these jobs come from?
Investment by big business across Europe has declined at a dramatic pace, while profits have risen. Rather than re-invest these profits to create more jobs, these companies now sit on reserves of over €3 trillion while over 25 million Europeans are unemployed. Are we now to expect that these companies will feel an obligation to create jobs for young people?
What this ‘Youth Guarantee’ will create is a glorified JobBridge across Europe. With no prospect of a ‘guaranteed’ job offer, young people will be pushed to take up ‘traineeships’ with companies who will willingly exploit them as we have seen in Ireland through JobBridge, with little prospect of employment at the end. It will also open the door to more attacks on the welfare rights of young people as we have seen in the United Kingdom through Workfare.
A real youth guarantee
A massive scheme of public investment to create the necessary jobs is the only way to offer a real guarantee. This would mean expropriating the massive amounts of hoarded wealth of big business and bringing these companies into the democratic public ownership of the working class. This would mean the wealth and resources present across Europe could be used to plan an economic programme that could create millions of new jobs through investment in infrastructure, renewable energy, technology and turn Europe into a continent run in the interests of people rather than the bank balances of the financial elite.