While European societies are getting older, the levels of youth unemployment are at an all-time high, especially in the south of Europe. They have been the most strongly affected group by job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the just published 2022 edition of the Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) review stressed, even if young people are on average more educated and digitally skilled compared to other age groups, they are facing the already existing challenges which the COVID 19 pandemic worsened.
In fact, young people already experienced some of the economic and social issues as their higher share of temporary employment contracts and their concentration in sectors or occupations impacted by the pandemic.
These challenges are even more concrete and evident when we look at the most disadvantaged and poorer sections of the society. For example, if we consider young migrants and refugees, or young people with disadvantage backgrounds, they are even less likely to gain a job or a long-term contract.
Another severely disadvantaged group is that of young women. They have been one of the most affected young groups by the pandemic crisis, as they were often called to the increased burden of domestic or care work, which also had an impact on their job prospects.
An important aspect, underlined by the ESDE 2022 edition review, is the impact of pandemic and economic and social crisis on mental health. The job losses and the uncertainty on the future, especially for young women and lower-income groups, really affected mental well-being, with evidence of higher rates of stress, anxiety and depression.
All this evidence, presented by the annual review of Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE), is also experienced by our partners of the EEA and Norway Grants’ Fund for Youth Employment. As they started to deal with young people before COVID 19, they had the opportunity to follow the path of this category through the crisis and its difficulties and obstacles. Most of the partners, during our ROM activities, confirmed their difficulties in reaching the target groups and in engaging them in their projects, mostly due to the pandemic impacts described above (restrictions in “face-to-face” meetings, low willingness of the participants in the engagement of activities etc). Despite the difficult moment, they were able to continue the planned actions, always listening with empathy the young people’s demanding.
So, what are the international and European institutions doing for youth to counter these trends? One of the most concrete examples in facing this challenge could be addressed to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) promoted by European Union, as part of NextGeneration EU. The measures of the Recovery and Resilience Plans, among which there is a clear aim to support youth employment issues, are classified according to three categories:
- Education and training
- Employment support to job creation
- Education infrastructure and equipment
Thus, EU governments are called to carry out investments and reforms, following the European Union guidelines. It is expected thaton average, by 2026, youth-related Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) measures have the potential to increase regional GDP and employment by more than 0.6% and 0.1%, respectively.
There is therefore a great challenge underway, but at the same time an enormous opportunity, to create better conditions and to improve future of youth. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but together, the EU institutions, the Civil Society Organisations, and other entities, such as EEA & Norway Grants together with the Fund Operator, have the responsibility to tackle this challenge not only for young people, but more generally for everyone’s future.