Written by IARS Youth Intern, Elise Ulvang

In September-November 2017, the UK unemployment rate for people aged 18-24 was 12.2%, only a 0.4% decrease from the unemployment rate a year ago [1]. In August 2017, the average youth unemployment rate in the EU was 16.7%, with great disparities remaining between the EU member states[2]. While the unemployment rate for those younger than 25 years in Germany was 6.4%, 43.3% of young people remain unemployed in Greece. Although unemployment rates are decreasing overall, structural biases preventing young people from finding jobs continue to exist.

Too many young people across Europe continue to face a highly uncertain future in terms of both employment opportunities and job security. Whereas the increase in the number of young people in the UK going into full-time education can be understood as a response to the market’s growing demand for a highly skilled labour force, it also reflects an increasingly competitive labour market for young job searchers. As young people are struggling to make a successful transition from education work, they might find themselves either forced to take on low-skilled work which they are overqualified for, or apply for unpaid internships in the attempt to enhance their own employability.  

Furthermore, these employment trends have highly negative consequences for marginalised young people who often lack the financial resources necessary to meet the rising demand for high-level skills and relevant work experience. As a result, they have a higher risk of becoming part of the new precariat[3], an expanding group of people facing a precarious existence characterised by job insecurity and a highly unpredictable future, who lack the means and opportunity to obtain meaningful and stable work. Where unemployed young people are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues as those who find themselves in stable work[4], empirical evidence also suggests a strong correlation between temporary work and mental health problems [5]

The issues of youth unemployment and job precariousness must first and foremost be dealt with at the national level. While bottom-up approaches including workshops and training sessions are crucial for enhancing social mobility and employability amongst young marginalised groups, political action is also needed to improve and increase access to skill-building and work experience opportunities for young people. In addition, only a broad governmental strategy will be effective in dealing with the wider and more structural causes of youth unemployment and precarious work.