human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Losing a generation

europe must invest in youth

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Eurostat reports that 3 out of 10 young people are poor in Europe today. Caritas organisations across Europe work on a daily basis with young people who are struggling with social exclusion and poverty. 17 national Caritas organisations have assessed the situation of young people in Europe and of the impact of social policies on the ground.1This work reveals that the last decade has been particularly rough for young people in Europe. It casts the spotlight on the fact that, for the first time in decades, younger generations are likely to have fewer opportunities and to be worse off than their parents as jobs are scarcer, wages are lower and working conditions are worse.

Furthermore, poor and excluded young people are also facing difficulties to access basic rights such as social protection, employment, housing and education. Across Europe, Caritas is witnessing the dire situation of young people: increasing homelessness in the UK, increasing number of school drop-outs in Luxembourg. In Germany, Caritas is flagging the new syndrome of disconnected young who are falling through all social safety nets.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, young graduates juggle one internship after the other without accessing stable employment. In Italy, they are being kept in a state of protracted adolescence without work contracts, own flats and no subsistence on which to raise a family, like the Irish and Austrians who are stuck in their childhood rooms while housing prices rise. In the Netherlands, Caritas reports about young Dutch men and women who are denied access to higher education due to the limited size of their wallet. The fate of young Roma continues to be an enormous source of injustice; like in Bulgaria, where Roma adolescents are being excluded and discriminated against in the schooling system. Many young single mothers in Cyprus face poverty and exclusion. For many young Romanians and Greeks, the only option for sustenance is to emigrate. In Caritas Europa’s opinion, the current situation is an act of intergenerational injustice. It seems that European societies have given up on their commitment to social cohesion and are disregarding the younger generations. Caritas Europa welcomes all progressive initiatives that aim at addressing poverty and social exclusion in Europe, notably youth poverty. Therefore, Caritas Europa strongly supports the European Pillar of Social Rights and encourages the Member States to seize the opportunity that the Pillar’s 20 principles bring to strengthen social cohesion and to invest in the younger generations. We cannot afford a lost generation. It is urgent that Europe invests in its young people!