The Great Debate UK

The jobs of tomorrow, not today, will fix youth unemployment

–John Vassallo is Vice President of EU Affairs for Microsoft. The opinions expressed are his own.–

European Commissioner for Employment Laszló Andor recently estimated that youth unemployment costs Europe €2 billion per week. Absorbing just 20% of youth who aren’t in education, employment or training, into the European labour market, would thus save Member States more than €21 billion a year collectively. Apart from damaging Europe’s future competitiveness, at this rate we also risk depriving a generation of young people of a route into independence and self-development. More than 5.5 million under 25s in the European Union are unemployed. This translates to a youth unemployment rate of 22% – more than double the overall rate for the working population.

A recent McKinsey study noted that by the end of 2020, due to the speed of technology advances, two-thirds of the jobs that will be created globally do not even exist today. It is thus imperative that young people are equipped with the right skills to meet this future demand.  I believe that ICT skills in particular have a central role to play. Industry analysts IDC also maintain that 90% of jobs in Europe will require ICT skills, across all sectors, by 2013. This issue of “future skill demand” is currently being flagged by European businesses, with a London School of Economics study finding that large corporations across Europe report increasing need for e-skills among newly hired employees.

I’m encouraged to see the European Commission leading the charge in tackling youth unemployment. They deployed “Action Teams” to eight Member States in February to perform on-site analyses of youth unemployment, highlighting the challenges facing countries at national level.