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To enter the labour market, a challenge for millennials

Massimiliano Mascherini
Senior Research Manager

While the figures are improving, it is still difficult for millennials to enter the labour market and an increase in long term youth unemployment is one of the more visible effects of the crisis. Empowering young people by creating favourable conditions for them to develop their talents and to actively participate in the labour market is essential for the sustainability of our societies. In this context, this policy brief investigates the entry of millennials into the labour market and discusses the status and the next steps of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee.


In 2017, Europe finally regained a stable path towards recovery, with growth in the economies of all EU member states. Adult participation in the labour market has also started to increase again in all member states, and, at 66%, it is now higher than before the economic crisis. Despite this more favourable scenario, entering the labour market continues to be a challenge for many young people throughout Europe and the process of finding a first job can be lengthy and often does not meet millennials’ expectations. In fact, the employment rate of young people is still well below pre-crisis levels while youth unemployment rates are still higher than those recorded in 2008.

Employment/ unemployment rates

Moreover, while in 2016 the rate for those Not in Education, Employment or Training (the ‘NEETs’) aged 15-24 decreased to 11.5%, this is still above the value recorded before the crisis. Approximately half of the NEETs are short term unemployed or are unavailable to work due to family responsibilities while more than one third of the NEETs population are in long term unemployment or are discouraged workers. The legacy of the crisis is still heavy and visible in the robust increases of these two last categories that almost double their size in comparison to 2008. In particular, the share of long term unemployed NEETs has increased from 1.5% in 2008 to 2.9% in 2016 while the share of those who are discouraged workers increased from 0.5% to 0.9% in the same period. This is a source of particular concern. In fact, as shown by Eurofound 2017, while it is normal for the transition between education and the first job after education to take some time, long-term unemployment can have negative dramatic effects on the employment prospects of young people and on their wellbeing.

In particular, there is a real danger that the frustration and resentments of millennials could be captured by anti-system political parties.

In this regard, while the word ‘youthquake’ was chosen as word of the year by the Oxford dictionary and associated with the outcomes of UK elections, (Oxford Dictionary, 2017) the potential consequences of spending a protracted period of time in NEET status in relation to democratic engagement and civic participation should not be underestimated. In particular, there is a real danger that the frustration and resentments of millennials could be captured by anti-system political parties. The recent examples in several Member States, such as Italy, France and Poland, (DW.COM) of the growth of populistic and far-right movements ring alarm bells.

While millennials are the first generation fully equipped to exploit the European Single Market and have unique characteristics and skills in comparison to previous generations, data reveals that European societies have not yet discovered the potential of Millennials at work, their value added in tackling the challenges of the digital economy and of globalisation.

Youth Guarantee

Following the recommendation of the European Council, since 2014 Member States have been implementing the Youth Guarantee: a pledge to provide the offer of education, training or employment to all young people within four months of becoming unemployed. The Youth Guarantee seeks to help in particular by reducing the duration of youth unemployment or inactivity and by increasing the employability of young people through labour market experience or the accumulation of human capital.

According to the European Commission, 16 million young people have entered the Youth Guarantee Scheme

Despite a slow start, each Member State has adopted its own strategy to implement the Youth Guarantee and now the Youth Guarantee is a well-established policy that is being implemented more or less robustly across Europe with tangible results. According to the European Commission, 16 million young people have entered the Youth Guarantee Scheme, 10 million received an offer and almost two thirds of young people who left the Youth Guarantee in 2015 took up an offer of employment, education, traineeship or apprenticeship (European Commission 2017).

Despite these positive results, statistics on youth employment suggests that more efforts are still needed in order to allow a quicker and better entry of millennials into the European labour market. Being part of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Youth Guarantee is on track to become an integral feature of the European Social Model for the 21st century. However, efforts need to be renewed on those elements that are the key ingredients ensuring the effectiveness of the Youth Guarantee: effective outreach to those hardest-to-help; early intervention and good cooperation among the relevant players in the public, private and non-profit sectors; and solid institutional capacity, notably in public employment services. However, all these determinants of success rely on two overarching and essential factors: political commitment and adequate financial resources. Without these two factors, the Youth Guarantee, which represented a major revolution in youth policies in several Member States, cannot be accomplished.

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