FRENCH President Francois Hollande yesterday called on his fellow European leaders to pledge €6bn (£3.98bn) of government spending in an attempt to tackle extremely high levels of youth unemployment across parts of the continent.
Hollande, who was also faced by the lowest recorded consumer confidence in French history yesterday, said he hoped to see the funds agreed by European Union leaders when they meet in June.
The President added that areas with youth unemployment above 25 per cent should be prioritised for increases in spending.
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, also drew attention to the dire situation for jobless young people in Europe in a separate speech to the European Parliament yesterday, referencing the same €6bn programme.
“Tackling youth unemployment is a long-standing priority,” he said, adding: “we should make sure that this initiative can be fully operational by 1 January 2014”.
Last week an EU statistical release drew attention to regions in the Mediterranean periphery where youth unemployment is nearing 75 per cent. In comparison, the rate in some Austrian and German regions was below six per cent.
The overall rate of youth unemployment for both Spain and Greece is now over 50 per cent, with 24 per cent in the Eurozone generally. In total, the EU estimates that the cost in unemployment relief, lost income and taxes from young people could be as high as €153bn per year.
Mats Persson, director of think tank Open Europe, was sceptical about the usefulness of a boost to EU spending for youth unemployment, saying the structure of individual nations was more relevant: “lots of these countries have very specific labour market issues which favour older workers”. He added: “I’m not sure how much a little more central spending can do”.