The recommendation to establish a Youth Guarantee was adopted by the Council in April 2013 in response to unprecedented levels of youth unemployment, which reached 23.5 per cent in Europe at the end of 2012, rising to more than 50 per cent in some countries. The European Youth Guarantee is a commitment by Member States to ensure that all young people receive either training or a good quality job that is suited to their abilities and experience within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education. The Youth Guarantee is one of the most innovative labour market policies of recent years, and has received strong social support. Indeed, it arrived at a moment when an urgent and radical response was needed to address the detrimental long-lasting consequences of long-term unemployment, such as permanent future income losses, skills erosion and the increased risk of discouragement and inactivity. The aim of this article is to examine the main features of this programme, with a special focus on the factors that are key to its success, namely: early intervention, identification of the right target groups, good institutional frameworks, high quality programmes and sufficient resources. In particular, we assess the extent to which these factors are embedded into the various implementation plans published by the European countries in question. Our analysis shows that although the majority of implementation plans include the recommended combination of capacity building and employment intermediation measures, as well as the creation of adequate institutional frameworks, countries’ allocation of resources for the programmes is not sufficient to match the recommendations. In fact, this article estimates that the gap accumulated by countries analysed that budgeted less than is recommended to achieve the desired objective of reducing youth unemployment amounts to 7.3 billion euros (PPP).