Spain welcomes ‘any plan’ to boost youth jobs

Recession-hit Spain and Portugal said on Monday that they welcomed "any plan" to fight youth unemployment, after reports that European powers planned to invest billions in getting young people back to work.

Spain welcomes 'any plan' to boost youth jobs
Spain's Mariano Rajoy and Portugal's Passos Coelho will take any help they can get to fight youth unemployment. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP

A "New Deal for Europe", led by France and Germany and backed by the European Investment bank, could help tackle Spain's rising youth unemployment.  "Any initiative in favour of youth employment has my support," Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a news conference alongside his Portuguese counterpart Pedro Passos Coelho after a bilateral summit.

Coelho concurred, saying: "Unemployment among the young is a tragedy for our two countries."

German newspaper Rheinische Post earlier reported that France and Germany planned to launch this month a "New Deal for Europe" against youth unemployment, through credits for companies.

Under the initiative, billions of euros in loans from the European Investment Bank would be used to promote education, training and job placements for young people, the newspaper said.

The Spanish and Portuguese leaders said they had not heard of the plan before Monday's report.

In Spain the unemployment rate among those aged 16 to 24 was 57.22 percent in the first quarter of 2013. In Portugal the rate was 42.1 percent.

Rajoy, whose conservative government has imposed tough economic measures to fix the public finances, said boosting jobs for the young should be first among three top priorities for the European Union, after creating a banking union and easing credit flows to businesses and families.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


EU heavyweights tackle youth jobless crisis

Spain, Italy, France and Germany sent their economy and labour ministers to Rome on Friday to look at ways to bring down the high levels of youth unemployment blighting the lives of millions across Europe.

EU heavyweights tackle youth jobless crisis
Some 53.3% of Spain's young people are unemployed as a result of the economic crisis, according to Eurostat. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

The emergency talks in the Italian capital come at a time when Spain's youth unemployment is over 50 percent.

French Labour Minister Michel Sapin said in an interview with Italy's Il Sole 24 daily on Friday that "in every country, even those where the unemployment rate is lower such as Germany, the percentage of young people without work is double the national average."

Sapin called on the four countries meeting in Rome to "react quickly, using the resources already available," such as the €6 billion ($7.99 billion) earmarked for the battle against youth unemployment in the 2014-2020 European Union budget.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, at 46 one of the youngest leaders in the EU, has said he hopes Friday's talks will help "define a European employment policy, especially regarding young people".

According to the latest EU statistics from Eurostat, of the 26.5 million people who were unemployed in the EU in April, 5.6 million of them were under 25 years old, which was 100,000 more than a year earlier.

The highest youth jobless rates were scored by Greece (62.5 percent), Spain (53.2 percent), Portugal (42.5 percent) and Italy (40.5 percent), reflecting how young people are paying the price for tough reforms imposed to restructure economies and reduce debt.

While 26.5 percent of young people were unemployed in France, Germany and Austria had markedly lower rates, with 7.5 and 8.0 percent of young people out of work.

Friday's meeting is aimed at preparing the ground for the European Councils of June 27 and 28, at which youth unemployment will one of the key topics on the table, and a special meeting on the theme in Berlin on July 3.

The discussions will be followed by a meeting of European labour ministers in Madrid on June 19, according to a spokesman from the Spain's employment ministry, who said Spain "wants to promote credit for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and measures to help employ young people.

"The idea of focusing on SMEs as a key to creating work for the young was touted at the end of May as part of a French-German drive to open doors for young people.  

German governmental sources said the ministers had adopted a "shared task on a European level regarding policies devoted to the labour market," looking in particular at "margins for improvement on transparency, the exchange of information on best practices, job centres."

The spokesman for the European Commissioner for Employment Laszlo Andor called for the four countries to "coordinate implementation of the Youth Guarantee scheme as soon as possible."

Funded by the European Union, the scheme stipulates that within four months of leaving education or losing work, under-25s would be assured a job offer, an apprenticeship or a traineeship.

Italian Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini said Letta has called for a "shock intervention" to tackle the crisis, with possible measures including tax cuts, changes to contracts and investment in job seeker services.

At the moment, Italy invests just €500 million euros ($666 million) a year in such services compared to € 5 billion in France.