Dimitris, we are very happy that you will join us in Barcelona. You are going to take part in the working session relating to the topic of challenges in youth employment. You are an economic policy advisor at the EU. Are you in touch with young people during your regular work activities?
Thank you for your kind invitation to participate in the YT Global Forum. The subject of this year is absolutely topical. It is really challenging for a Financial Economist to touch this subject. EU is in the centre of the youth unemployment problem. And it is not only in the EU. All the European continent faces the same problem and it is of paramount importance to work together on this.
Now, to answer your question, yes, I am constantly in touch with young people in the EU. The EU institutions encourage the employment of young people and the election of young Officials. In the European Parliament, we have elected members in their 25 years and almost 1/3 of the Deputies are under 40. This is also a case for the European Commission. For example, Federica Mongerini, the High Representative of the Union, is 42 years old.
In our everyday functions, the process of policy-making includes young people in analysis, prioritization, and execution of policy. But also this holds in the “periphery” of the Institutions because the groups of pressure, the professions and stakeholders are also represented by young people.
What is the European Union doing to fight youth unemployment across Europe?
EU has put in place an arsenal of policies to fight the youth unemployment problem. It is a challenging effort, but not very successful so far. The Youth Guarantee policy has significant implementation problems as well as poor results. Consequently, it is not about what EU and its respective member states do, but what kind of results their policies and their commitment to the problem produce. Labour policies are more or less a national and not EU competence. However, a more coherent and coordinated governance method within the Union may produce more important results. This may take some time. But time is a luxury in the case of youth unemployment for several financial, social and political reasons.
In what countries is the situation most difficult? And why?
Econometric analyses indicate that the youth unemployment is persistent in EU and non-EU Europe alike. Statistically, the rate of youth unemployment in EU is 25%, or double of the overall unemployment rate. In absolute numbers 6 million young people between 15 to 25 years old are unemployed. However, these figures, though they indicate a dynamic trend upwards during the years of the financial crisis, they do not allow us to be sure about the actual level of the problem, because youth employment is, in many cases, informal and not officially registered. In some Member States, like Spain and Greece, the rate of youth unemployment is over 50%. This is a dramatic figure. There are no clear answers on the causes of the problem. A simple explanation of this level comes from the analysis of its cyclical and structural characteristics, though, I suspect, it is much broader than that, and includes political, societal or even cultural elements.
What EU countries are distinguishing themselves by showing superior results with respect to the young professionals labour market? What do they do in order to succeed?
I have two examples in my mind: Austria and Switzerland. Though Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it shares many political and economic similarities with the EU States. Switzerland enjoys the remarkable 3% of youth unemployment. This rate cannot be explained merely on the basis of the microeconomic and macroeconomic conditions which make the labour market of this country resilient. It is much more than that. After their 15th year many of the young people do not continue to full time schooling but they gain a professional qualification. This equips them with skills. Then, they return to the school and some of them follow a university education. The goal of the Swiss government is to create employable citizens. They do not confuse the university diplomas with professional skills. A degree does not necessarily imply professional capacity. Similarly, Austria follows the so called “dual system”. In the secondary level of education students divide their day between school and part time work. This also allows the development of employable young people readily equipped with practical work experience and skills.
Last couple of questions about the Youth Time Global Forum. What will the keynotes of your speech be?
First, it is necessary to show some facts related to the problem of the youth unemployment in the EU as well as its social significance and prospects. Unemployed young boys and girls do not constitute only a short term cost. Youth employment is perspective. Then, I will try to briefly describe the EU policies attempting to reduce youth unemployment, the mentality behind them, and the results produced by these policies. Finally, I will try to give some suggestions for effective fighting of the youth unemployment within the governance system of the EU and in collaboration with important actors of the global economic system. In my view youth unemployment is a war that Europe in its entirety must fight united from Portugal to Russia, otherwise the consequences will be in the mid-term financially and socially non reversible. The idea is simple: Europe has a great opportunity to work together and provide a new horizon of policy formation with the young people in the core. Political and Economic theory produced so far with limited success, environmental dimensions in economics, gender dimensions, or cultural dimensions. Let us now try something practical and build together a deep pan-European regime with a youth dimension in policy-making formation.
And what do you expect from the Youth Time Global Forum? What are your personal goals?
Youth Time is a pioneering organization which functions as a “workshop” for innovative ideas beyond the mainstream assumptions and paths. It is a place of synthesis. I will contribute to this workshop the experience of the EU regarding this problem and I expect to get innovative ideas and tools from global leaders so as all together to set the stage for a fruitful policy for the fighting of the youth unemployment and the creation of youth-friendly global regime.