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The lecture series "First-Hand Information on Economic Policy” is supported by ZEW’s Sponsors' Association for Science and Practice.
In her presentation, von der Leyen argued for a system of dual education and for greater mobility for Europe’s youth. There are currently 25 million people unemployed across Europe, 6 million of whom are under the age of 25, said the Federal Minister. This high rate of youth unemployment, especially in Southern Europe, is a threat for democracy. “Europe used to be a symbol for the future”, said von der Leyen. When asked about their attitude towards Europa today, young people rather consider Europe a burden.
Germany is currently not having the same problems with youth unemployment as its neighbours. However, Ursula von der Leyen warned the audience “not to forget where we come from”. Things had also gone wrong for Germany in the past, the Minister said alluding to the post-war era, when Germany’s neighbours allowed the country to return to Europe, and to the period when Germany was considered the “sick man of Europe” ten years ago.
The Federal Minister touched on possible solutions to the high unemployment rate among Europe’s youth and demanded an urgent improvement of the labour market situation. . The sense of desperation in the countries deeply affected by the crisis has to be alleviated before it turns into violence as it was recently the case in Sweden.
For that reason, the Minister demanded sustainable and long-term investment in apprenticeship programmes and education in order to combat youth unemployment. Drawing on the example of European countries with different educational systems, she emphasised the benefits of the dual education system in Germany and a couple of other countries. She pointed out that Switzerland has a dual education system and low youth unemployment, whereas the Southern European countries with high rates of youth unemployment have not yet implemented dual education systems. Von der Leyen argued in favour of a model for the embattled countries in which the governments provide vocational schools, while firms in these countries make apprenticeship positions available. However, mutualrecognition of degrees and Europe-wide permeability between educational systems is a precondition for success, according to von der Leyen.
Furthermore, numerous vacant apprenticeship positions in Germany should be made accessible to young people all over Europe. Encouraging mobility would be a first step towards solving the crisis. Von der Leyen pointed out that, in comparison to Europe, in the USA 16 times as many people migrate between states because of jobs. According to the Federal Minister, the language barriers in Europe are undoubtedly an obstacle, but they could be overcome through government-financed language courses. A European system of apprenticeship position placement services could inform Europe-wide about vacant positions. Such a system, however, is still missing. “We have to offer Europe’s youth a perspective, or else they migrate and seize their opportunity in America or Canada”, von der Leyen said.