The theme of youth employment has risen sharply up the EU’s political agenda since 2011 in response to substantial rises in youth unemployment rates in a number of Member States due to the economic crisis and on-going recession. Youth unemployment rates are above total unemployment rates in all Member States, although rates vary significantly. Cohesion policy is an important component of the EU response to youth unemployment and already allocated significant funding to youth employment at the beginning of 2007-13 (around €10 billion per year of ESF funding alone). Preparations for 2014-20 indicate a strong focus on youth employment, partly due to the theme’s political and economic prominence but also because of the EU-level decision to allocate specific quotas of total funding to the ESF; the inclusion of three themes of particular relevance for youth employment among the Thematic Objectives; and the application of related thematic ex ante conditionalities.
IQ-Net partner programmes in 2007-13 have encountered various challenges to the design and implementation of youth employment interventions. They encompass: the need for sound analysis and diagnosis of the causes of youth employment, and the effects of policy interventions, in individual Member States, regions or places; targeted solutions that take account of the needs of different groups of young people and also, where appropriate, of the demands of business and other employers; realistic ambitions of what EU co-funded programmes can achieve in the setting of objectives and targets; policy frameworks that both facilitate robust demand for young workers and also promote the supply of young people with an appropriate mix of qualifications, broader skills and work experience; complementarity between EU and domestic policy approaches to maximise the added value of EU-funded interventions; effective coordination across levels of government and agencies/organisations; and regulatory frameworks and administrative procedures that are supportive of youth employment interventions.