Written by Stephanny Ulivieri
Globally, young migrants account for more than 10% of the 232 million international migrants, and as the most mobile social group, they account for the majority of yearly migration flows (ILO, 2021). While international migration offers young people the opportunity to provide a better life for themselves and those related to them, pursue better education, improve their professional skills and job prospects, or satisfy a desire for personal improvement through the adventures and challenges that come with living abroad, it does so in the context of high youth unemployment and a lack of decent job creation at home (ILO, 2021). As a result, a large number of young migrants are frequently caught in exploitative and harsh professions, including forced labor, and, like other migrants, they are frequently used as scapegoats for the failures of economic and social systems (ILO, 2021). More specifically, economic, environmental, political, and social variables present either in the migrant’s home country (push factors) or in the country of destination (pull factors) influence migration. The EU’s relative economic prosperity and political stability are regarded to have had and continue to have a significant pull impact on immigrants (Eurostat, 2021).
According to Eurostat, the youth employment rate refers to those between the ages of 15 and 24 who are in employment (i.e., performing work for pay, profit, or family gain) (2021). Within this age group, EU employment rates ranged from 31.1 % for those born outside the EU, to 31.3 % for those born in the EU (Eurostat, 2021). It’s important to remember that many people in this age group are still in school, college, or further education and that if they’re studying full-time, they may not be willing or able to work alongside their studies (Eurostat, 2021). In regard to unemployment, the EU unemployment rate climbed in 2020 for all populations: native-born, persons born in a different EU Member State, and persons born outside the EU, after falling between 2013 and 2019 (Eurostat, 2021). It can be argued that such a spike in the unemployment rate was directly related to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the labour market. The trends in youth unemployment rates were similar to those in general unemployment rates, although at higher levels and this rate is calculated by dividing the number of jobless people aged 15 to 24 years by the total labor force for that age group (Eurostat, 2021). It’s worth noting that a disproportionately large number of young individuals are considered or categorized as unemployed, usually due to pursuing full-time education (Eurostat, 2021). In 2020, the EU youth unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 24 was 15.9%, but rates for those born outside the EU were higher: 19.4% for those born elsewhere in the EU and 27.5 % for those born outside the EU (Eurostat, 2021).
As the data illustrates, young migrants within the EU are consistently placed among the social groups mostly hit by the problems of (un)employment. Noteworthy is the fact that data collection itself bores important known shortcomings which reflect a lack of holistic understanding when it comes to dealing with migration, given that for example, the labour market statistics have insufficient data on recently arrived migrants (this group is missing from the sampling frames of all Member states within the Union) (Eurostat, 2021). Furthermore, obstacles such as language barriers, a misunderstanding of the survey’s aim, difficulty speaking with the survey interviewer, or fear of the survey’s negative consequences (for example, jeopardizing a migrant’s chances of obtaining the requisite authorization to remain in the host EU Member State) are among some of the inadequacies of the data collection exercise.
With that in mind, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced in her 2021 State of the Union address that 2022 will be the European Year of Youth, a project label that elucidates the need for “the vision, engagement and participation of all young people to build a better future, that is greener, more inclusive and digital” (European Commision, 2021). This will be a multistakeholder initiative, which will foster the participation of the European institutions, alongside Member States, young people themselves, and other crucial parts of the system (European Commision, 2021). Nonetheless, where do young migrants stand amidst this project and more specifically within the European labour market? For instance, in the final report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of the EU Youth Strategy (2019-2021), migrants were only mentioned three times, a descriptive effort which does not accurately reflect the importance of migrants within the European context and more specifically the EU labour market. Thus, while the EU portrays itself as an area of “freedom, values, opportunities and solidarity, unique in the world”, this does not seem to be true for everyone (European Commision, 2021). Additionally, an important part of the young people who within European borders struggle to have the same rights and privileges of participation and recognition as their peers, even though EU Member States have long been a destination for migrants, whether from inside the EU or from other parts of the world and the fact that migrants have brought a diverse set of skills and talents to local economies, as well as increased cultural variety (Eurostat, 2021). Moreover, while international migration can be used as a tool in destination nations to address specific labor market needs, by itself will almost definitely not be enough to alter the EU’s continued population ageing trend (Eurostat, 2021).
It can be affirmed that more often than not, migrants in general and young migrants more specifically are excluded from decision making and participation, deficiencies which coupled with the impacts of transnational phenomena such as economic crisis or the current Covid-19 pandemic only serve to further the fragility of young migrant groups. Political engagement can be characterized as activities that allow people to develop and express their views on current events, as well as participate in and influence decisions that affect their life. This is inextricably tied to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, as well as the freedom of expression (Beddock & Elsod, 2021: 16). In today’s Europe, policies, regulations, laws, and decisions that are made without their participation or involvement but that still have an important impact on the daily lives of millions of migrants contribute to the perpetuation of a basic multilevel and intersectoral democratic deficiency (Beddock & Elsod, 2021: 16).
In sum, while continuing to meet immediate needs, the EU and its Member States must develop a system that controls and normalizes migration over time and is completely founded in European principles and international law (European Commission, 2020). Indeed, migration has always been a part of human history, and it has had a significant impact on European society, economy, and culture, besides being able to actively contribute to prosperity, innovation, and social dynamism in a well-managed economy (European Commission, 2020). Demography, climate change, security, the global race for talent, and inequality are all socioeconomic concerns that have an impact on and are impacted by migration (European Commission, 2020). All of the efforts employed in order to better the integration of young people to the labour market should be far-reaching and not centered only around EU Member State nationals, with the EU striving to build an ever more inclusive, representative, and democratic governance. It certainly has the capacity to, but will the Year of the Youth, truly be for all young people?
Beddock, A., & Elsod, A. (2021). Part of Europe. Vocify.
European Commision. (2021, October 14). Commission kick-starts work to make 2022 the European Year of Youth. Retrieved December 26 2021, from European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_5226
European Commission. (2020, September 9). Communication from the Comission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum (COM/2020/609 final). Retrieved 22, December, from EUR-Lex: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52020DC0609
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