Round Table on Social Inclusion – They called me NEET

Two weeks before the Agora I attended a Round Table organised by the European Youth Forum in the European Parliament, focused on the repercussion of youth unemployment for social inclusion.

The high unemployment rates among the youth is not fresh news anymore; we have heard the figures so many times they do not scare us anymore. But I was shocked when the representative of the medical students highlighted the strong link between unemployment and health. Unemployment is a risk factor for drug addiction, depression and other psychological and physical problems. This point of view adds a new human dimension to the economic aspects of the unemployment crisis in Europe, and highlights how devastating can it be for a person to feel disconnected to society for some months, to have no hope of changing its situation, and how this can lead to social exclusion.

I always knew that unemployment has a bigger impact on the collectives that are excluded from society. What I could not assess clearly before is how steadily this unemployment crisis is increasing the number of people in risk of exclusion in Europe. If the situation continues this way for a long time, we will be dangerously coming closer to the no-return point of having a lost generation in Europe. Something that did not happen since the World War II.

NEET is a complex term which was created in the UK to give a name to the people who are trapped in the situation of Not in Employment, Education or Training for a certain period of time. The term has since the 90s become widespread in the world, with even translation to local languages (in Spain they are called the Ni-Nis (NI estudian NI trabajan). This group is the one highly exposed to the risk of exclusion. These young people are in the spotlight of the European policymakers as they are aware of the risks this situation poses for the European society in the future. They are looking to address this problem with decision, and they will adapt a system which is already working in Europe (e.g. Finland) with positive results, the so-called Youth Guarantee. What does this Youth Guarantee mean?

The Youth Guarantee is a compromise to offer every young person in Europe a job, further education, or a training, four months after leaving education or becoming unemployed the latest. The idea sounds great, and if implemented Europe-wide, it may help to reduce drastically the risk of a lost generation. However, the costs of its implementation will be high (although the economical studies determine that the pay-off is assured on the long term); and I sometimes wonder where those politicians are who were capable of thinking in the long run…

You can find more information on the Youth Guarantee here and here.

A curious case: According to their definition, as a volunteer working for AEGEE for one year I am formally a NEET (I asked and they confirmed this point). Strange enough, because in spite of the term I can say with no doubt that this year I am working as hell, learning everyday and putting into practice all my skills and knowledge into my tasks. In my case, I am a NEET by choice, and the same for my fellow CD mates, we took a break of one year from our lives to become members of the Comité Directeur. However, I bring another conclusion out of the fact that I am a NEET. Volunteering can be a great help for NEETs to avoid isolation, depression, and other negative consequences of being disconnected from society. They will be active and feel useful, they will learn a lot, they will gain skills that will increase their employability. Together with the Youth Guarantee, supporting the youth organisations can provide great results in reducing the risk of exclusion of a whole generation.

Written by Miguel Gallardo Albajar, member of the Comité Directeur 2012-2013