Youth Rights must be at the heart of Social Europe

10. 05. 2021

The Prime Ministers and Heads of State from all EU Member States along with Presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament met in Porto on 7-8 May 2021 to discuss the next steps to build more Social Europe.

This was an important opportunity and a test for the future of the EU, when more than ever, the pressure is on to deliver for people and their rights. Four years after the first Social Summit in Gothenburg, and over 12 months since the Covid-19 outbreak, it was high time for decision-makers to take stock of the lessons learned so far, and agree on how to move forward.

what happened and what are the main takeaways? 

Political leaders came together to discuss and endorse the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU’s vision for job creation, tackling poverty, and promoting social inclusion in the coming years. Our Vice-President Frédéric Piccavet, Board Member María Rodríguez Alcázar, and the President of National Youth Council of Portugal (CNJ), João Pedro Videira were at the Summit to represent the voice of young people.  

As expected, the impact of the pandemic, and the extent to which it has exacerbated existing inequalities, including for youth, was at the core of the debate.

Vice-President Frederic Piccavet said, “Since the pandemic struck, we as young people have had our education disrupted and youth unemployment has risen three times as fast. But young people had been facing obstacles in entering the labour market for years before this crisis. It’s time for a system change in our approach to jobs, skills and education.”

Moreover, youth precarity is often further worsened by structural barriers to accessing income support and social assistance.

Board Member María Rodríguez Alcázar reminded policymakers that, “Instead of providing extra support to young people, EU social protection systems actually disqualify us from accessing support. We must end age discrimination against youth to ensure our inclusion in social protection schemes.

With yet another crisis having a disproportionate impact on youth, will the EU and Member States start to listen to young people now?

In Porto, the EU leaders signed the Porto Social Commitment to join forces with social partners and civil society, to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. Moreover, the European Council adopted the Porto Declaration, which identifies young people’s participation in the labour market, education and training, as key priorities. These are welcome developments, but the EU must move from theory to practice.

“Gothenburg was all about principles, Porto is about taking action.” said President Von der Leyen.   We now expect leaders to fulfill their promises by delivering ambitious policies to  protect youth rights, combat precarious work, and end age discrimination in our social protection and employment policies. To achieve this, we call on all policy makers to sign our Youth Pledge and mainstream youth rights in all social policies at the EU and national level. 

At the Social Summit, Commissioner Schmit showed his strong commitment to youth by addressing young people directly: “We will work hard to build a strong social Europe for you and with you, so you can thrive.”

We thank Commissioner Schmit and all Youth Social Rights Allies who’ve already taken #TheYouthPledge: we will continue to engage with you until young people and their rights get the attention they deserve. A pledge #ForYouthRights is a commitment to the present and a promise for the future.

Youth Pledge signatories:

  • Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European Commission for an Economy that Works for People
  • Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
  • Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
  • Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms
  • Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain
  • Iratxe García Pérez, MEP & Head of the S&D Group
  • Brando Benifei, MEP
  • Niklas Nienass, MEP
  • Damian Boeselager, MEP
  • Lídia Periera, MEP
  • Alícia Homs Ginel, MEP
  • Kim Van Sparrentak, MEP
  • Sylvie Brunet, MEP
  • Dragoș Pîslaru, MEP 

Ready to join? Get in touch with our Policy and Advocacy Officer William Hayward at to find out more.


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