WASHINGTON — European Union leaders have called for swift action to reduce youth unemployment, a growing problem in the 28-nation grouping. Almost one quarter of young people aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, which is more than twice the unemployment rate among adults.
French President Francois Hollande hosted a Youth Unemployment Summit in Paris on Tuesday, following a July summit initiated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"The future of a generation is at stake, a generation that has been hit by unemployment for years now, and with the economic crisis, this generation feels even more uncertain about its future, almost hopeless," said Hollande.
President Hollande said 6 million young people are currently unemployed in Europe. His own popularity is at record lows, partly because he has failed to lower France's 11 percent unemployment rate.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said economic growth is a prerequisite for creating new jobs.
"We are obviously doing everything we can for the preconditions, for growth to become ever better, because without growth there will not be any new job created, and those who will suffer that will particularly be the young people," said Merkel.
Ahead of the July summit Chancellor Merkel hosted in Berlin, she said youth unemployment could be the bloc's biggest problem. That summit ended with a pledge to spend $8 billion over the next two years to improve youth unemployment rates, but youth organizations say that figure is not nearly enough.
"The six billion euros is not enough. To establish something credible, we need at least 21 billion euros. We are demanding more investment at a European level," said Giuseppe Porcaro, general secretary of the European Youth Forum in Brussels.
Many organizations say that youth unemployment is not just an economic problem. Thiebaut Weber, president of the Trade Union Confederation, which is also based in Belgium, feels it presents a social issue as well.
"We are calling for a more social Europe that takes responsibility for social matters and employment - not just the budget," said Weber.
Youth unemployment in the European Union reflects the economic disparity found throughout the eurozone, the 17 countries that use Europe's common currency. In Spain, more than half of people under the age of 25 are out of work. In Greece, the figure is close to 60 percent. But in Germany, Europe's strongest economy, youth unemployment is only about 8 percent.