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Youth-packed agenda of EU ministers of Employment and Social Affairs

15. 03. 2018

Today, Ministers responsible for employment, social affairs, health and consumer policy from all EU Member States, met in Brussels to discuss several key initiatives for young people.

The Ministers adopted a Council Recommendation setting a European Framework on Quality and Effective Apprenticeships. The Youth Forum welcomes this Recommendation as a much needed initiative to ensure quality opportunities for young people – one of our key asks in our European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships. The inclusion of access to social protection and remuneration/compensation among the quality criteria listed in the Recommendation is a particularly positive development – a step forward compared to the Council Recommendation on a European Quality Framework on Traineeships. We are also pleased that the newly adopted Framework features many of the key priorities identified by the European Apprentices Network.

While we appreciate the focus on apprenticeships as a tool to foster employability, we stress that for apprenticeships to be a valuable pathway for young people, they must put the learner at the centre and it must be based on a long-term vision, by fostering skills development for life, and not just for a job. We now expect Member States to do their part and implement the Recommendation at national level.

Also on the agenda was the endorsement of the Employment Committee’s key messages on the Youth Guarantee. It is important that Youth Guarantee provides long term, qualitative, and sustainable solutions for young people and as the Youth Forum we demand that the quality and relevance of the offers, as well as their outreach, be improved. To this end, we fully endorse the call for the long-term sustainability of the scheme to be ensured through EU funding, as highlighted in the European Parliament debate on the 2019 budget, where the fight against youth unemployment through concrete funding of the Youth Employment Initiative was identified as a key priority. Moreover, we welcome the focus on strengthening partnerships: effective cooperation with key stakeholders such as youth organisations is key to the success of the Youth Guarantee.

Importantly, Ministers also debated how to close the gender pay gap, although we regret that the progress of the Work Life Balance Directive was not discussed. Women, including young mothers, are far more likely to act as informal carers. Providing more flexible working arrangements and greater options for leave for parents and carers is a vital step to combat the underrepresentation of women in the labour market, particularly in the context of a growing ageing population in Europe where caring needs are only likely to increase in the future. Seeing the Work Life Balance Directive come to fruition is not only a step towards gender equality, but an important step towards delivering on the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Lastly, in the context of the Council’s debate on the future of Europe, the Youth Forum calls on the Ministers to demonstrate their commitment to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and to young people’s social rights, by ensuring adequate support to social investment in the post-2020 EU budget.