Young people demand more from new Action Plan

10. 03. 2021

Following the impact of the pandemic, the European Commission’s long awaited Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights could not come at a more important time. 

The Action Plan will set the direction of EU social policy on jobs, skills, and social inclusion for years to come. However, as young people find themselves in an increasingly vulnerable position, will the Action Plan be enough to support them?

What about jobs?

There is some good news! The Action Plan includes a number of initiatives that will help to improve the quality of jobs for young people and tackle youth unemployment.

One aim, is to decrease the rate of young people who are neither in employment, nor in education or training from 12.6% (the rate in 2019) to 9%. Sticking to this goal will be crucial in addressing the surging youth unemployment rates that we are now experiencing. 

Today’s pandemic has highlighted the need to be prepared for all kinds of shocks and new developments in the labour market. Therefore, the planned initiatives on platform workers, the right to disconnect and on AI governance are very welcome to help better protect young workers and their rights.

The Action Plan also includes positive steps forwards for internships. The Commission’s commitment to review the EU’s policy on internships in 2022 could be a crucial opportunity to end the unfair practice of unpaid and low quality internships, which often replace decent entry level jobs. 

We’re also glad to see a focus on the ‘quality’ of offers provided by the Reinforced Youth Guarantee included in the Plan, an issue which youth organisations, including the European Youth Forum, have long been calling to be addressed.

Looking beyond the headlines

Despite these positive developments, the Action Plan simply does not go far enough with some of its targets. 

The headline objective to lift 15 million people out of poverty by 2030 is a big step down on goals outlined in previous strategies (Europe 2020 called for 20 million by 2020). Furthermore, despite having the highest poverty rate of any age group, young people are not mentioned in the poverty targets. 

There is also no concrete target for tackling early school leaving, even though the previous Europe 2020 strategy aimed to reduce it to less than 10%. Improving job quality also missed out on headline and sub-targets. Disappointing given that half of all young workers are employed on temporary contracts, many of which are insecure and low paid. 

Will it make the Pillar of Social Rights a reality?

Adopted in 2017, the European Pillar of Social Rights is the guiding compass for setting the EU’s social policy agenda with 20 principles covering work conditions to equality, to social protection. However, it remains unclear how each principle of the Pillar will be implemented by the Action Plan, as it presents a mix of upcoming policy proposals that seem to vary by principle. For example, a binding Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages, versus a non-binding Recommendation for Minimum Income. These variations raise serious questions about how much value and importance is given to each principle.

The lack of involvement of civil society organisations in the Action Plan is clearly a missed opportunity to bring it closer to citizens. Despite being described as ‘essential’ stakeholders, there are no concrete proposals on how we will be included in policy-making.

Nevertheless, the Youth Forum will push the EU to be more ambitious in the next steps of the Action Plan. We will demand legislation and other initiatives that have a real impact on young people’s lives and recognise the precarious position of many young people who lack a quality job and a social safety net. On the 7-8th May the EU will endorse the Action Plan at the Social Summit organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, an important opportunity to commit to turning all 20 of the Social Pillar principles into reality.  

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