This year's European job day is even more relevant to Europe's young people, as #Youth unemployment continues to blight the life chances of this forgotten and disenfranchised group. The annual event is promoted by EURES, the information exchange network, which aims to facilitate employment mobility throughout the European Union and the European free trade Associate. But with youth unemployment high, or in some countries very high, across the EU, what realistic options do Europe's young unemployed really have?
Europe's high youth unemployment rate is one of the most unfair outcomes of the 2008 economic crash. The 18-25 age group are becoming a lost generation, making their way in an adult world of few jobs and limited opportunities. More galling for them is that they were in school when the crash began, and yet they are the ones paying for their parents' generation's mistakes.
Youth unemployment across the EU in January this year was 21.4% - one in five without work. However, this belies huge disparities between countries. Whilst Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have rates below 10%, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Spain are all running at over 40%. In the hardest hit countries, Greece and Spain, over half of all young workers are jobless. More worrying is the rate of youth unemployment compared to total unemployment. In most EU countries, young people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than their older counterparts. In some of Europe's traditionally affluent countries, such as the UK, Denmark and Italy, this figure is closer to three times more likely.
The 18-15 age group are also a politically dis-empowered generation. As a percentage of the electorate, they are a declining demographic group and they are also the least likely to vote in elections. It is no surprise that political parties focus more of their manifestos on the older electorate, who are both more likely to vote and are a larger and growing constituency. Ironically, however, the 18-25's are a sufficiently large enough group to swing outcomes in close campaigns, such as the forthcoming general elections in the UK and Spain, if they chose to become politically engaged.
The solutions are neither simple, nor cheap. In austerity Europe, state funding of higher education has been reduced as more of the tuition bill has been passed over the students. In the UK, the generation who benefited from a free university education are now asking their children to pay up to £9,000 per year for the same opportunity - with total debt of £40,000 for a three-year course becoming the norm. Apprenticeship programmes in the UK are not fully embedded and industry still requires the infrastructure to make them part of an effective and meaningful solution.
Whilst the EURES initiatives might be more appealing to a more mobile younger generation, a supportive infrastructure is still needed to open up the benefits of employment migration to more than just the most highly educated. The migration of Europe's youth to the richer countries to compete for unskilled, minimum wage jobs is not a long-term solution, and only places more pressure on young people in the destination country.
The current political leaders across the EU have a moral and economic obligation to today's young unemployed one-in-five. They cannot become a lost generation. Moreover, in thirty years' time, they will be calling the political shots - and how would they treat their parents then?