European Commission High-Level Conference

Youth Guarantee: Making it happen

Guy Ryder's address at the session on Europe's Youth Guarantee in a global context - G20 work on youth employment. Check against delivery

Declaración | Brussels | 8 de abril de 2014
Thank you very much, Commissioner, Margaret, Stefano, and good afternoon.

Let me begin by saying a word about how important this Conference is today.

Why? :
  • because youth unemployment remains at a level that has to be described as unacceptable;
  • and because the Commission’s Youth Guarantee, that Laszlo has done so much to get adopted and implemented, constitutes a key element of the response to that unacceptable situation.
I want to say something about that second point in a moment. But let me elaborate on the first to give you a global context.

I am afraid you have heard me speak before about the tragic reality of the youth employment crisis both globally and at a European level. That reality is unfortunately still with us:
  • Globally the youth unemployment rate stands at 13.1 per cent;
  • In absolute terms that means 74.5 million young people without work worldwide, one million more than last year;
  • And the bad news is that, without decisive action, the level is expected to remain that high until at least 2018.
In developed countries, the youth unemployment rate is 18.3 per cent; and that would be very much higher were it not that so many young people have simply lost hope and are not looking for jobs any more. Today in the European Union, in addition to the 5.6 million unemployed young people there are 1.9 million more who are neither in employment nor education nor training - the famous NEETs – about which our attention must be very carefully focused.

And we know that the challenge is uneven, including in Europe where some countries record youth unemployment rates higher than 40 per cent, as in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, while others have rates below 10 per cent. In addition, long-term unemployment of young people has been rising: more than 1/3 of unemployed youth have been unemployed for more than 6 months.

Youth are also increasingly employed - where they are employed - in non-standard jobs, including temporary employment and involuntary part-time work. And the transition from school to work is taking longer and has become very much more uncertain in many countries.

All of that applies very much here in Europe. But – and I think I need to emphasize this - there are significant difficulties as well in many developing economies, where high levels of informality and working poverty are the major challenge for young people. If you take the global labour force as a whole, one out of every two young people is either poor or unemployed.

As Margaret Kidd knows too, for many emerging countries members of the G20, tackling the challenge of youth employment is not just a policy priority but a political issue as well.

We shouldn’t be surprised about that: remember, the Arab Spring not only took hold in the region that has long suffered the highest levels of youth unemployment in the world but was triggered in Tunisia, if you remember, by educated youth excluded from labour markets.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our recent school-to-work transition surveys carried out in some 28 countries in all the developing regions show that young people, especially the low skilled, are mostly engaged in what we refer to as necessity-driven self-employment. We also refer to it as survival strategies that are characterized by jobs of poor quality, low productivity and low pay, mostly in the informal economy. These survival activities and vulnerable employment alternate with spells of open joblessness. We know that the quest for decent jobs for low skilled but also for some highly educated young women and men in developing countries is a major drive for labour migration, a theme which the ILO will be focusing on this year.

The ILO has calculated that the global economy needs to generate around 600 million jobs in the next ten years to absorb both the current numbers of unemployed plus the 40 million new labour market entrants, mostly young people, who join the global labour market every year.

Our analysis of the global jobs deficit conducted for the last meeting of the G20’s Task Force on Employment (that Margaret Kidd co-chairs) has shown that weak overall global economic growth has been associated with even weaker employment growth in most G20 countries. On current growth trends, the G20 jobs gap is projected to continue to widen until at least 2018, particularly in the advanced G20 countries.

And so, as I’ve indicated, if no action is taken youth around the world will not be able to get a place in the labour market, nor to develop their economic potential or ultimately that of their families. As well as being a tragedy in itself, that clearly has repercussions for our economies and means that our societies will not be able to incorporate the dynamism and the innovation that young women and men bring to the labour market that is vital for growth and sustainable development.

That’s the problem – but let us try to focus on the action. And I must say it really gives me great pleasure to address this meeting which is about action, the kind of “urgent, targeted and immediate action” that the global community called for when it adopted a “Call for Action” on youth employment at the ILO’s International Labour Conference in June 2012.

The Call for Action on youth employment provides a multifaceted agenda, comprising appropriate macroeconomic programmes; active labour market policies; promotion of entrepreneurship; and an approach that respects fully the rights of young people.

And I want to recognise and welcome the initiative of Commissioner Andor, joined by the initiatives of the Council, the Parliament, and the Framework Action Plans by the European Social Partners, to place action on Youth Employment as a priority.

The Youth Guarantees constitute a concrete programme that connects the political will and commitment with funding facilities and an implementation plan. Thus it exemplifies the national and regional solidarity to provide an innovative response to this, I hope, exceptional crisis. It rightly targets the most seriously affected amongst youth and amongst the countries and regions.

It allows flexibility in combining different types of measures that work best in different country contexts while maintaining the overarching objective of ‘guaranteed’ access to employment services, training or employment.
And, I would like to underscore perhaps two characteristics in particular:
  • the universal and guaranteed application of “accessibility” to the defined population;
  • and the notion - and this is important - of quality and sustainable training and employment opportunity, rather than the “quick fixes” that too often in the past have failed to provide the intended benefits.
I am glad to say as well that, at the request of the European Commission and the EU member States, the ILO has been cooperating in many ways on the European Youth Guarantee Initiatives. This is one of the most important areas in the growing cooperation between the ILO and the EC, and I welcome it.

Our assessment of the early generation of youth guarantees and the Policy and Technical Briefs that we issued have been in high demand and use by numerous policy makers and practitioners alike.

We have the impression that we are adding value. Our methodologies for costing the guarantees, both at macro level, as well as in specific country contexts and for different types of labour market interventions, have provided factual analysis of the investment needed, and it is an investment that is worthwhile.

We are all conscious of the fiscal constraints. Here, let me reiterate that our analysis concur with many other studies in the conclusion that the cost of investing in youth interventions – interventions that cost between 0.5 and 1.5% of GDP - is far outweighed by the long-term cost of inaction.

We have also responded to requests from particular governments for design and dialogue on broader national action plans on youth employment that include youth guarantees. Indeed many countries are taking the launching of Youth Guarantee Plans as opportunities for re-evaluating and re-engineering their labour market policies and institutions to increase their effectiveness to cope with the new emerging issues in youth labour markets.

I am often asked the question, and I’m sure many of you are as well: are youth guarantees going to solve the global and European deficits in jobs for youth?

Let me try to give an honest answer to that question.

Youth guarantees are not a panacea. But they are a concrete and necessary measure to restore hope, to connect young people with labour markets and society, to prevent de-skilling and long-term alienation and scarring, and to provide the opportunity of initial job experience. Youth guarantees provide protection in difficult times and the skills that young women and young men need to navigate through today’s labour markets, harder than ever to break into for the first time.

And as I mentioned at the outset, the launch of these plans as well as the lessons learned from implementation are providing the opportunity for an in-depth rethink of public policies and institutions to improve the administrative ability and capacity to match young people’s needs with labour market requirements; to forge effective public and private partnerships; and to achieve stronger collaboration between national and local authorities in delivering results.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are all invaluable outcomes that will result from youth guarantees, properly implemented.

Let me also say a word on the contribution of the G20 before I close. And the ILO is very pleased to be working with the Presidency – Australia – with an emphasis on achieving practical results from working together. Tomorrow the OECD is hosting what I think is a very important G20 event on apprenticeships in Paris (and I want to thank you in advance, Stefano, for your good work in organizing that). The ILO joins with the OECD and G20 in emphasizing the importance of this subject.

At the ILO, we are ourselves promoting the expansion of quality apprenticeships systems; we are working to support our employer constituents in the International Organization of Employers and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee of the OECD in their Global Apprenticeships Network. The ILO hosted last year the joint Business 20 and Labour 20 meeting that agreed on common action to improve the quality of apprenticeships and the image of apprenticeship training amongst young people.

These actions targeting youth specifically do not diminish however the need for re-launching job-rich and inclusive growth policies to provide the demand boost that the global economy needs to recover from the crisis and start on a more sustained growth path.

G20 Leaders called at their last Summit for each G20 country to develop growth strategies that incorporate effective employment action plans; and the ILO is working closely together with the Commission, and the OECD and the Australian G20 Presidency this year to identify the policies and concrete actions that are needed to do just that, and to establish the foundation for sustainable, job-creating economic growth.

Let me conclude by once again congratulating the European Commission and national institutions for the launch of the Youth Guarantee.

I think it is fair to say that the task of implementation is only starting. And I can offer the ILO’s continued support in the next phases. The lessons that we can jointly draw will provide substantive and factual evidence of what works for youth in this crisis - lessons which should be of significant value in both the European and in the global context.

At the ILO, we are implementing a priority programme on what we call an Area of Critical Importance on Jobs and Skills for Youth. The debate we have just concluded on that initiative in our Governing Body provided an endorsement of that programme in assessing “what works” for youth employment, disseminating the evidence, the results and lessons, building capacities and as the name of this Conference says, “Making it Happen”.

I am sure our programme will reemphasize the importance of Youth Guarantees as part of the answer to that question. I look forward now to a continued and strong partnership with our European colleagues, governments, the Commission, social partners and other European institutions in advocating and realizing the Youth Guarantees, and utilizing to the fullest their potential to contribute to the “what works” solution to youth unemployment.
Thank you for your attention.