Youth unemployment rate, 2011


Observations for policy

Youth unemployment rates are consistently higher than total unemployment rates in almost every part of Europe, which indicates the greater vulnerability of this social group. It also predicts the dangers of their exclusion from participating in economic activities, e.g. negative impacts on well-being and health status, withdrawal from society etc. Furthermore high youth unemployment rates imply the existence of strong barriers in entering the labour market for young people.

In countries that comprise both regions with high and regions with comparatively low unemployment shares, young people might find a job after moving to economically stronger regions. In countries like Ireland and Greece, on the other hand, youth unemployment rates in all regions are among the highest. Here, Europe runs the risk of a lost generation. Alternatively, the young people migrate to countries with better employment opportunities. However, as mainly well-educated, in terms of required qualifications and language skills, young people can leave, this brain drain will also affect the labour market in their home countries and, in the long run, also demographic development and aging.

Policy context

The Europe 2020 Strategy aims at raising the employment rate of the European population aged 20-64 up to 75%. In addition, the promotion of sustainable and high qualitative employment has been defined as a thematic objective of the ERDF for the period 2014-2020. Within this objective, investment priorities are, among others, related to local development initiatives and territorial strategies that support employment-friendly growth through the development of endogenous potential. The financial and economic crisis illustrated the additional challenge in many regions regarding youth unemployment to develop this potential.

The flagship initiative “Youth on the Move” under the Europe 2020 Strategy poses policy initiatives on education, employment and mobility for young people in Europe. One example of this is the Youth Employment Initiative from 2013 which aims to support particularly young people not in education, employment or training in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25%. The initiative focuses in particular on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee. Under the Youth Guarantee, Member States should put in place measures to ensure that young people up to age 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

The Sixth Cohesion Report emphasises the impact of the recent crisis on the development of employment rates. Between 2000 and 2008, employment rates in the EU increased on average by 3.7 percentage points. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, however, the employment rates decreased by 1.9 percentage points. The figures are on average worse for youth unemployment. In half of the regions the youth unemployment rate in 2012 was 20%. For these regions in particular it is a challenge to contribute to the Europe 2020 objective to have an employment rate of 75% in 2020.

Map interpretation

Youth unemployment rates are unevenly distributed across Europe. Northwest European regions have considerably lower youth unemployment rates than regions in Eastern and Southern European regions. Especially the regions most hit by the financial and economic crisis have higher youth unemployment rates, e.g. Southern Italy, Greece and Ireland. High levels of youth neither in education nor employed can be a consequence of the crisis. Linkages between education and requested qualifications can be challenged due to the downturn of specific sectors, e.g. the real estate sector in Spain. Also regions in Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Baltic States show high shares of unemployed young people.

For many countries regional disparities can be identified. In Lithuania, Bulgaria and Italy both regions where less than 25%, and regions where more than 45% of the young labour force are unemployed can be found. Italy thereby shows a clear North-South divide with Northern Italy showing much lower unemployment shares than Southern Italy. The same pattern can, to a lower extent, be observed in Spain. On the other hand, some countries like Greece or Ireland show very homogenous, yet very high unemployment shares of more than 35%.

Tackling youth unemployment is a national challenge in these countries. In addition, urban and capital areas generally stand out as regions with lower unemployment rates, especially in Eastern Europe, for example in Poland, Lithuania and Romania, where economic growth and consequently employment opportunities usually concentrate in the main urban areas and capital cities.

Concepts and methods

The map shows youth unemployment rates for European NUTS3 regions (NUTS2 for BE, DE80, EL, ES53, ES70, MT, NL, PL, RO, UKM2, UKM3, UKM5 and UKM6). Six classes were used to display youth unemployment rates, starting from less than 5%, increasing gradually by five percentage points, up to more than 45%.

According to Eurostat, youth unemployment includes all people aged 15-24 years who are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate is then calculated as a share of unemployed young people compared to the total labour force in that age group. One has to consider that young people that are studying are not available for work. Consequently, they are excluded from the total labour force in the age group 15-24 years.