Youth Labor Market: Overview of the EU countries


The successes of young innovators in the entrepreneurial market are extremely important to the modern world, for young people are at the cutting edge of progress. However, let’s face it, only a few become “Zuckerbergs,” most need a helping hand from somebody else to meet their potential.

A critically important factor is the availability of employment and training. Without decent educational opportunities and jobs, promising young people have little chance to grow to their potential. And it is here that the current state of affairs is less than optimal both in developing countries and in the prosperous European Union. Where is youth unemployment the highest, and where, on the contrary, are the doors of opportunity that are open for young people? What specialties are the most attractive to employers? What are the main trends in the youth job market? In this article, we will examine the answers to these questions throughout various European countries.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), which operates under United Nations auspices, currently 73.4 million of the world’s young people (15 – 24 years) cannot find a job. At first glance, the figure may not seem alarming given the scale of the entire planet. Moreover, in developed countries, many young people enter the job market after the age of 24. However, there are two big BUTs. First, in percentage terms this number is 12.6%. For comparison, in countries with strong economies, the percentage of total unemployment is typically less than 8%. If the unemployment rate reaches 20%, then the situation is considered to be a crisis. Secondly, this rate has been steadily growing. Over the past six years, 3.5 million recruits have joined the regiment of the unemployed. Of course, the most powerful jump happened during the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, but since the brief stabilization in 2010, there has been a steady increase in youth unemployment: on average youth unemployment grows by half a million a year.

In general, the experts at the ILO in their latest research paper «Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A generation at risk» concluded that “now it is not a good time to be young and trying to find a job.” If in the third world countries the main troubles at work are: low quality jobs, poor pay, and job insecurity; in “well-fed Europe” it is the lack of jobs and the constant frustration of young talents faced with the discouraging situation in the job market.

There is a very interesting marker here – a mismatch between demand and supply in the labor force. On average in the EU, according to data for 2013, this figure was 14.1%. The biggest differences were recorded in Finland, Sweden, Belgium, and Luxembourg. On the contrary, the best odds of young people and employers coming together occurred in Switzerland, Greece, Poland, and Portugal. What does the mismatch of supply and demand show? It shows that well-educated young people, failing to find a job following their profession, are increasingly likely to choose lower-paying and low-skilled work instead. Accordingly, the “lower part” of the labor market is overflowing, because less-educated workers are not giving up the jobs that they have traditionally held. “All of this will lead to undue competition, lower wages will cause dissatisfaction and decreased productivity,” – concluded the ILO.

How many frustrated job-seekers, young and nominally promising, and barely out of school, roam our cities in search of a suitable place? According to Eurostat figures for 2013, on the average it is as many as 18.4% of recent graduates. Please recall the unemployment rates in stable and crisis economies, given for comparison at the beginning of this article. Talking about specific examples, it will be no great revelation that young people in the midst of the crisis in Spain and Greece are struggling the most at the moment. Even in spite of the fact that Hellas has a very decent figure for supply and demand balance in the labor market, its bankruptcy set young people back severely, and almost half of all graduates find that there is almost no chance to find a job. New holders of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Italy, Romania, Portugal, and Cyprus are also having a difficult time now. These countries are experiencing significant economic difficulties and young people, as the most vulnerable link, are the first to be let go or the last to be hired. Graduates of German and Dutch universities are the most fortunate. If you graduate in one of these countries, then it is likely that you will find a place in a local business or in a government position. The number of educated unemployed youth in Germany or in the Netherlands is under 5%.

At the same time, in every country there are professions that are in demand. People whose training coincides with market demand are unlikely to have serious employment problems. If you want to draw a general conclusion, more than anything, Europe needs engineers with an advanced education, in other words graduates with fundamental technical knowledge. They will have the best odds of finding work in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Austria. According to various sources in Germany, the number of vacancies for engineers is around 50,000. The second highest in demand are doctors. The third are specialists in the field of IT.

The ones having the most difficult time finding work are graduates in humanities and social sciences (besides the UK). Ironically, there is also a raging crisis among graduates in economics. Europe’s lack of economic stability has sent many of them over to the other side of the labor market. A sufficiently high level of competition is seen among law graduates, but if we consider the average among the European countries, the law faculties have quite a large number of graduates, but at the same time there are a lot of jobs out there for them. Lists of the most sought-after professions in each country are publicly available. The World Wide Web affords ample resources on this and makes voluminous research with detailed information easy to access.

What are the main trends and conclusions? While the world is under the influence of economic fever, young people are particularly at risk. And the forecasts are not comforting. According to experts at the ILO, unemployment among young people will continue to grow until at least 2018. But this does not necessarily mean that the current talent will remain unrecognized. Much depends on the talented individuals themselves. The crisis has changed the general conditions of careers and employment, and now we need to determine the best course of action to respond to the new situation. In order to successfully solve his problem of unemployment and make a productive transition from student to professional, a modern young man has to calculate all the variables correctly and be fully aware of what the real unemployment figures are and what professions are in demand in his country. We have presented you only raw data, how you will use it is up to you.

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