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YOuth Employment

One in five young europeans (19-24 year olds) are not in education, training or employment, these are as NEETS.


Three articles from The Economist explaining the background to the current global crisis in youth employment HERE



Text Box: Youth Unemployment Rate  Ireland averaged 18.48 % from 1983 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 31.1% in June of 2012 and a record low of 6.2% in November of 2000. The Youth Unemployment rate decreased to 19.2 % by the end 2015

Youth Unemployment in Ireland

A number of reports have been completed in recent years researching specifically targeting youth employment. The OECD LED report is one such report and is quoted extensively in the following section. Irish youth have been hit hard by the economic recession with lower skilled youth hit hardest. Until 2008 the youth employment rate in Ireland was one of the EUs highest and the youth unemployment rate one of the lowest. In just a few years this was completely reversed. In 2011, the youth employment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds fell significantly to reach 28.1%, below the OECD average. The youth unemployment reached 30.6%, greater than the OECD average. There is particular concern regarding the very high level of youth long-term unemployment, which reached 45.8% in 2011 - double the OECD average .

School completion to leaving certificate has increased and the proportion of early school leavers in Ireland is relatively low, below EU and OECD averages. However, the transition into employment is particularly difficult, and Ireland has one of the highest levels of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) in the EU 18.7% compared to the EU average of 13.1% in 2012 (growing from similar starting points of 10.7% and 10.9 % respectively for Ireland and the EU in 2007, Eurostat).


Within Ireland itself the levels of youth unemployment vary considerably from region to region as can be seen below.


Long-term youth unemployment

As well as unemployment levels increasing, more worryingly, is the increase in youth long-term unemployment has also risen in each of the eight regions.

 In 2006, the South East region had the highest rate at 3.3%, while the lowest was found in the Mid-East. By 2012 the Mid-West had the highest level at 20.3% and the Dublin region had the lowest rate at just over 12%.

Those at higher risk of becoming long-term unemployed are young people who have been previously unemployed, who have numeracy and literacy difficulties, limited formal education or who live in large urban areas and they tend to be males.


Young people with a low level of educational attainment are the most likely to be out of work and the young unemployed are more likely to have no formal education (this rose from 17.4% of unemployed youth in 2007 to 48.9% in 2011) .The unemployment rate for persons who attained at most a primary education was 33.7%, compared with an unemployment rate of 7.8% for those with a third level degree or higher (CSO, 2012c). Among those with third-level qualifications, higher unemployment rates were found in specific specialisations e.g. fine arts, audiovisual and media production, and hair and beauty services. A recent study on transition in and out of unemployment among youth in Ireland has found that education had a bigger impact on the probability of a successful transition from unemployment to employment over the course of 2006 to 2011.



Trends in main labour market indicators for 15-25 year olds in Ireland and OECD countries 2001 and 2011, % change  

neet rf





The European employment strategy (EES) was introduced in 1992 by the Treaty of the European Union and since then has been the cornerstone of the EU’s employment policy. Its main aim is the creation of more and better jobs throughout the EU and now constitutes part of the Europe 2020 growth strategy
Europe 2020 is the EU's growth strategy with five ambitious objectives - on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy to be reached by 2020.
The three flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy that fall under the areas of employment, social affairs and inclusion are:

  • Youth on the move: aims to improve young people's chances of finding a job by helping students and trainees gain experience in other countries, and improving the quality and attractiveness of education and training in Europe;
  • An agenda for new skills and jobs: aims to give fresh momentum to labour market reforms to help people gain the right skills for future jobs, to create new jobs and overhaul EU employment legislation;
  • European platform against poverty and social exclusion: aims to bolster work at all levels to reach the agreed EU headline target of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty and exclusion by 2020.

Europe’s future prosperity depends on its young people. There are close to 100 million in the EU, representing a fifth of its total population1. Despite the unprecedented opportunities which modern Europe offers, young people face challenges – aggravated by the economic crisis - in education and training systems and in accessing the labour market. Youth unemployment is unacceptably high at almost 21%2. In order to reach the 75% employment target for the population aged 20-64 years, the transition of young people to the labour market needs to be radically improved.

In 2011, the Commission proposed the Youth Opportunities Initiative (YOI) calling upon Member States to take more action to address the high youth unemployment rates, including better use of European Social Funds and more possibilities for mobility. In 2012, a Youth Employment Package (YEP) was adopted by the Commission. The YEP included a proposal for a Council recommendation on Establishing a Youth Guarantee aiming to ensure that all young people up to age 25 receive a quality offer of a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.  

In February 2013 the European Council agreed to set up a Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) of €6 billion. At the European Council of 27-28 June 2013, Member States agreed to speed up and frontload the Youth Employment Initiative, with the disbursement of the €6 billion to take place during the first two years. Member States benefitting from the YEI are asked to adopt a plan to tackle youth unemployment, including the implementation of the Youth Guarantee before the end of the 2013. It is also recommended that they make maximum use of European Structural and Investment Funds, and in particular the European Social Fund.


  • After finishing secondary school, young people should either get a job or enter further education - and if not, they must receive appropriate support through active labour market or social measures, even if they are not entitled to benefits.
    • Graduates from vocational pathways and from higher education also need support to move as quickly as possible into their first full-time job.

    Never the less the Council of European Union review of Irelands Reform Programme in August of 2015 pointed out:

    “More measures need to be implemented, within the Youth Guarantee, to improve the situation of young people.

    • Currently, there is a nine-month waiting period for young people who have been assessed to have a medium or high probability of exiting unemployment.
    • The Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee recommends young people receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education to avoid scarring effects.
    • Ireland also lacks a more comprehensive outreach strategy regarding, specifically, people not in employment, education nor training who are not active in the labour force. 
    • The data on involuntary temporary employment as a result of employer uncertainty arising from the financial and economic crisis also shows the importance of providing good-quality offers of employment or education, traineeships or apprenticeships relevant to labour market needs and leading to permanent jobs”.

    Furthermore the OECD  Local Youth Employment Strategies Ireland  report  found that the 

    “The provision available within the education and training system to reach out to disadvantaged young people and bring them closer to employment may not be sufficient for vulnerable entrants. Currently in Ireland the priority group in activation programmes is the older unemployed. The traditional “strong performers”, such as university graduates, also have a number of suitable training and activation options such as JobBridge, Momentum, Skillnets etc. 

    There is a danger that vulnerable young people are being squeezed out and left behind in the high numbers of unemployed. 

    There is a need to address the issues that contribute to and compound the disconnect between vulnerable youth and the labour market.“There is a need for more fine-grain policies for youth within broader youth activation measures in the PES.  Few of the activation processes in the public employment services in Ireland are specific to young people.  The Irish government has given priority to the registered unemployed and increasingly to the longterm unemployed, regardless of age, and young people’s needs must fight for space within the much larger numbers of unemployed adults who have become the clients of the new bodies (Intreo, ETBs, etc.). Moreover a proportion of young people cannot avail themselves of supports within the PES as they are not eligible to register as unemployed”

    Nevertheless, mainstream institutions, such as the employment services, are not always best placed  to engage with young people who have experienced serial social risk factors such as low education, living in a deprived neighbourhood, drug use, ethnic minority background, mental illness etc. (OECD, 2010d).  Although there are various employment and training programmes for disadvantaged youth available at the local level, however provision tends to be disparate and small-scale. Community, social enterprise and youth work are useful for engaging disadvantaged youth but are disjointed. 

    Recommendations from the OECD  Local Youth Employment Strategies Ireland 

    • Improve joint work among local level agents could create more integrated supports for youth and a continuum of interventions to help alleviate youth unemployment. Including mapping the options for young people in the educational, employment and training systems and the different pathways they can take at local level.
    • Ensure that community and youth work is more fully integrated into the existing network of employment, education and training so as to assure optimal mutual benefit.
    • Build work experience formally into the school system.
    • Address the education system focus on progression to higher education as the only successful output for second level system.
    •  Extend the sectors that apprenticeships service.
    • Career guidance in schools needs to include preparation for vocational pathways or for work and include local career opportunities .
    • Local training providers to develop and support the skill needs of a local economy.
    • Involve employers  on the design and implementation of youth programmes to ensure their effectiveness. 
    • On going support for a young person once  they  commences employment, to support retention, improve skills to support in-work progression (particularly of low skilled youth) .

    While many of the above recommendations are being addressed at national level, to be meaningful,  it is necessary to put in place effective mechanisms at the local level to  create a system better focused on youth employment.

    Dermot Stokes outlines the key challenges and next steps for Ireland to deliver a comprehensive youth employment strategy building on his experience of the recent review carried out in partnership with the OECD on local youth employment strategies in Ireland.


    For more information: EU Youth employment:

    The definition of ‘early school leaving’ used at EU level refers to ‘those young people who leave education and training with only lower secondary education or less, and who are no longer in education and training’. In statistical terms, European ESL rates are measured as the percentage of 18-24 year olds with only lower secondary education or less and no longer in education or training.

    source European Commission

    Reports Youth Employment



The Recovery

The labour market reached a turning point in 2013 with renewed job creation in the private sector, modest rises in participation levels and modest falls in the unemployment rate.


Type of New Youth Jobs

Against the reduced figures in youth unemployment one has to take into account the type of jobs that young people are getting and there is significant evidence that the type of work is temporary, either  part time and or zero hour contract work as pointed out by the Europeans Union Review of the Irish Reform Programme.

A worrying trend in the Irish youth labour market is the increase in part time work, which stands at 41.4 % of those aged 15-24 in temporary employment (compared with 37.5 % in the EU as a whole). This trend, along with a 20 percentage points increase in part-time employment as a percentage of total employment for those aged 15-24 , points to increasing labour market segmentation for young people.

Skills mismatches have emerged with the rebalancing of the economy. Since the recovery was strongest in skill-intensive sectors, it opened up job opportunities mostly for high-skilled workers. While total employment of those with tertiary education has continued to increase, total employment of those with less than tertiary education has only stabilised during the recovery (Graph 2.4.5).

(29) Eurostat 2013: 2008: 26.6 % (EU28: 26.2 %), 2013: 46.6 % (EU28: 31.9 %)


The unemployment rates also show how the different effects of the recovery by education level, across skill groups. For those with at most lower secondary education, the unemployment rate was at 21.2 % in Q3 2014. It fell below 14 % for those with upper secondary education and below 7 % for those with tertiary or a higher level of education .

Among young people making the transition from education or initial vocational training into employment, the proportion who take up temporary rather than permanent jobs is much higher than for the age group as a whole.

Temporary employees in Ireland as a share of total employees aged 15-24 rose from 11.2% in 2004 to 34.2% in 2011 – this reflects a 23% increase.

An  ILO study , shows that change in the incidence of youth temporary employment in total employment between 2007-2011 was significantly higher in Ireland (13.7 % rise) than elsewhere in the EU (1.2%  average rise for EU-27).

Further, youth part-time employment has grown faster than adult part-time employment both before and during the economic crisis in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU.

Between 2008 and 2011, the youth part-time employment rate increased by 3.6 % in the EU as a whole while over that same period in Ireland it increased by substantial 20.7 %.

Part-time youth employment is often temporary so there is frequently a correlation between the two.

The growth of temporary employment and part-time work, in particular since the global economic crisis, suggests that this work is increasingly taken up by young people because it is the only option available in a precarious labour market context, where, according to Central Statistics Office (CSO) data, youth unemployment in the 20-24 age category in Ireland stood at 29% in the third quarter of 2012 (the overall unemployment rate was 15%).