“Next Generation EU”: from diagnosis to action
A report published a few days ago by CEDEFOP, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (an EU agency), was rightly titled EU jobs at highest risk of Covid-19 social distancing: Is the pandemic exacerbating the labour market divide? . The COVID-19 Exposure and Social Distancing Index they develop maps the level of risks for different sectors and occupations in relation to the COVID-19 crisis. The graph below, summarising their findings, is worth a close look by all youth employment practitioners.
If there was any doubt about the meaning of the “labour market divide” the study refers to, the evidence gathered by the authors clearly shows “that the negative consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on current and expected job losses and earnings are particularly harsh for women and younger workers, those with less secure work arrangements (such as gig economy workers) and the lower skilled”.
Will history repeat itself? There is yet more evidence, if needed: Eurofund, another EU agency, has conducted an on-line survey among more than 85,000 citizens across all EU countries showing that the youth of Europe (18-34 years old) is grappling with the crisis, reporting lower levels of mental well-being and higher levels of loneliness than any other age groups, coupled with job loss, a dramatic decrease in working time and a sense of insecurity about their professional and financial futures . In a presentation of the survey, Eurofund analysts asked themselves whether “Will history repeat itself?”:
“While we now know that the idea that ‘COVID-19 only affects older people’ is fake news, the first weeks of the pandemic have shown that young people are in general more resilient than older people to the disease. But are they also more resilient to its social and economic impacts? Evidence from the previous recession would advise against drawing that conclusion. The 2008–2013 crisis revealed the additional vulnerability of young people to economic recession in comparison to other age groups […]” Will young workers be the next victims of the COVID-19 economic fallout? “
Next Generation EU. The diagnosis is done. The challenge now is to move to action in the framework of the massive economic recovery programmes put in place both at national and EU level to face the economic effects of the pandemic. The latest, announced by the European Commission on 27 May for an amount of €750 billion in 2021-2024, has been labelled “Next Generation EU”. Together with the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027 (€1,100 billion over the seven years, around 1% of EU GDP during that period) due to be approved in the second half of 2020, they will build the financial firepower of the EU budget for the next seven years. The role of youth employment in those recovery programmes, the policy tools and the resources devoted to it are still to be seen.
Our Spanish Youth Employment Expert
Living, Working and COVID-19: First Findings April 2020, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/report/2020/living-working-and-covid-19-first-findings-april-2020.