European youths still face rising joblessness at a rate far higher than their American counterparts — but European leaders insisted Tuesday that scenario is going to improve over the next two years.
Leaders from 24 European nations as well as labor ministers and European Union officials met Tuesday in Paris to talk about youth unemployment. They announced no new programs but many expressed confidence that plans now in place will reverse the rising joblessness for the under-25 set over the next two years.
With budgets still tight, Europe's youth unemployment rate stands at 23.5 percent, up from 23.1 percent a year ago. In the U.S., the rate is about 16 percent.
Europe has pledged 45 billion euros ($60 billion) between 2013 and 2015 to fight youth unemployment.
French President Francois Hollande said the meeting had set a strategy to ensure that by 2015, no youth will spend more than four months unemployed without being offered a job, an apprenticeship, training or education.
"We must act quickly because it is urgent, we cannot abandon a generation," Hollande said at a news conference.
Hollande said the leaders agreed that EU nations which have action plans to combat youth unemployment by the end of the year will be able to begin drawing upon the 6 billion-euro ($8 billion) Youth Employment Initiative that the EU has set aside beginning Jan. 1.
As of 2011, only 34 percent of 15-29 year-olds in Europe were employed, the lowest figure ever recorded.
The EU employment figure masks huge disparities, however: The German youth unemployment rate was only 7.7 percent while Greece's was a stunning 57.3 percent. Seven EU countries had a youth jobless rate over 30 percent, fueling concern that a generation of people will be locked out of the job market, hurting long-term growth prospects for their nations.
One EU think tank has estimated the cost to Europe of employing so few of its young people at 153 billion euros annually as of 2011.
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