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€22bn plan aims to get youths off dole

PLANS to commit €22bn to tackling the scourge of youth unemployment across Europe will be considered by EU leaders tomorrow as international pressure mounts for action to help young people chart a way through the deepening economic crisis.

The difficulties of young people leaving school for a world that offers ever more limited job opportunities were highlighted last week when youth unemployment in Spain reached 51.4 per cent among those aged 16 to 24.

The issue was high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday where politicians, economists and bankers said action was essential to stimulate demand and prevent a generation becoming strangers to work.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said youth joblessness was not just a problem for the West but was also evident in emerging economies -- in many of which the proportion of young workers was rising.

"If people don't get the right start it can affect them their whole lives. It is not enough to muddle through. It is not enough to do a fiscal fix."

At tomorrow's EU summit in Brussels -- likely to be dominated by attempts to safeguard the euro's future and to control spending by eurozone members -- EU leaders will discuss a plan to guarantee all young people either work, training or further education within four months of leaving school.

A draft conclusion of the summit, likely to be agreed by all 27 heads of state and government, states: "The objective should be that within four months of leaving school young people receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship."

EU sources said €22bn of as-yet unspent money in the EU's social fund could be provided. The commission would work with member states to draw up "country specific" programmes on how to address the problems and use the funds. While the plans would not be legally binding, a unanimous agreement would place countries under strong pressure to deliver.

Spain's 51.4 per cent youth unemployment rate means that for the first time in a modern European country the majority of young people are out of work.

© Observer

Sunday Independent