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Online Conference “Preventing a Lost Generation 2.0”
A Jump Start for Youth

Building bridges for young people: The online conference “Preventing a Lost Generation 2.0”
Building bridges for young people: The online conference “Preventing a Lost Generation 2.0” | Photo (Detail): European Youth Forum

Will youth unemployment rise sharply in Europe due to the coronavirus health crisis? How can the European Union prevent this? These questions were posed during the online conference “Preventing a Lost Generation 2.0” by StartNet Europe, the trade union youth organisation CESI Youth, and the European Youth Forum on 7 July.

By Tanya Wittal-Düerkop and Benjamin Panten

Rising youth unemployment in the European Union, increased risk of poverty for children and young people, fewer educational opportunities – all this is feared in the coming years. In cooperation with the youth organisation of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, CESI Youth, and the European Youth Forum, the StartNet project by the Goethe-Institut and Stiftung Mercator organised an online conference on July 7 under the motto “Preventing a Lost Generation 2.0.” Young people from all over Europe discussed questions about the future of their opportunities in education and on the job market with experts and policy-makers from the European institutions.

The central question was whether the EU’s Reinforced Youth Guarantee was an appropriate response to the challenges faced by young Europeans in the entry-level employment phase. The Youth Guarantee is a commitment by all EU Member States to ensure that all young people under 25 years of age get a high quality job offer, further training, an apprenticeship, or an internship within four months of becoming unemployed or completing their training.

Equal participation in the training and labour market

Jan Wilker, the project manager at StartNet Europe, is particularly concerned that “disadvantaged young people and those from structurally weaker regions are given opportunities to actively shape and thereby participate equally in the training and labour market.” In his opening speech, the EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, emphasised, “Now we have to tackle necessary reforms, we have to support young people. We owe that to the millions of university graduates and young professionals. Our youth deserve the best possible opportunities to fully exploit their potential.”

Objective of the conference: Better opportunities for young people in training and on the job market. Objective of the conference: Better opportunities for young people in training and on the job market. | Photo (detail): Tanya Wittal-Düerkop

Breaking out of the cycle of temporary contracts

Kira Marie Peter-Hansen, a member of the European Parliament as part of the Green EFA Group, and at 22, the youngest member ever elected to the European Parliament, also advocated an expansion of the European Youth Guarantee in order to avoid rising youth unemployment in the EU. She noted that her generation in particular is in acute danger of being disconnected from the labour market. CESI youth representative Matthäus Fandrejewski emphasised that the European Commission’s current initiatives on youth employment support are good, but not sufficient. Rising youth unemployment is best prevented by a successful transition from training to work. He therefore welcomes the renewal of the European Youth Guarantee proposed by the European Commission and hopes for adequate budgeting in the next seven-year financial framework and for funds from the EU recovery plan. Frédéric Piccavet, board member of the European Youth Forum, added, “Young people are often stuck in a cycle of temporary contracts. Swift action is necessary to support our next generation wherever and however we can and to guarantee equal opportunities for everyone.”

The experiences from the StartNet project and this conference show that only if all actors – schools, businesses, teachers, parents, youth organisations, and trade unions – act together and preventively with the policy-makers at local, regional, national, and EU levels, will a bridge be built to the job market and to a bright future for all young people.