EU leaders pledge to tackle unemployment crisis

Updated: 2013-06-29 07:49

By Fu Jing in Brussels (China Daily)

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With millions of graduates flooding severely depleted job markets this summer, European Union leaders have pledged to take immediate action to prevent the alarming level of unemployment from fuelling social unrest.

While insisting on austerity policies that hamper job creation, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy said EU leaders, who gathered for the two-day summit on Thursday and Friday, have pledged to ensure that every young person gets a "good offer" of a job, education or training.

EU leaders pledge to tackle unemployment crisis

British Prime Minister David Cameron (right), and French President Francois Hollande at a European Union summit in Brussels on Friday. Yves Herman / Associated Press

"We are under no illusion: the problem won't be solved overnight. But there is no reason for a 'mission impossible' mindset," said Van Rompuy at a Friday news conference.

The leaders were also scheduled to discuss relations with strategic partners on Friday. They were expected to unify thoughts on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States, and to touch base on the ongoing talks of the solar panel dispute between China and the EU, while discussing the longer-term partnership with Beijing.

Meanwhile, some European youths have found that their leaders' promises are not being delivered amid the economic recession.

Dimitris Kastrisios, 28, is from a middle-class family in Greece, where youth unemployment is rampant. He has finished an advanced master's program in International and European Law at the Free University of Brussels.

"I didn't get any job offers so far, but my father has told me again and again to not return to Greece," said Kastrisios. "I don't know when I'll be able to get a job."

He added that job seekers with some work experience are now preferred in the European job market, where the jobless rate is at about 12 percent.

He was a lawyer before getting his master's degree. "But I don't think that my experience has helped," he said.

In his home country, the situation is alarming as the austerity policy has brought in bleaker job prospects and families' incomes, social benefits and pensions have been greatly reduced.

"The young people are hopeless, and they are thinking about leaving the country," he said.

European figures indicate that the youth unemployment rate reached 23.5 percent in the EU's 27 countries in April. In addition, the disparities between member states and between regions within member states are significant: the youth unemployment rate is more than 50 percent in some member states and over 70 percent in some regions, while in a few regions it is below 5 percent.

All in all, more than 7.5 million people under 25 are neither in employment, education or training.

Jorge, from Spain - who declined to provide his surname - is another recent graduate in Brussels, but he's luckier than most. Out of 38 classmates, he was the first one to get a job offer. He is now dealing with competition law at an international organization.

"I'm lucky, one of my classmates has sent more than 200 job applications but only got two or three replies," he said. "This is worrying."

Meanwhile, there are about 200,000 Chinese studying in Europe and those graduates are also facing difficulties to find a job opportunity.

Li Weifang, a Chinese graduate in business economics at Belgium's University of Leuven, said that she is skeptical about opportunities at home and abroad.

"I heard that the job market in China is also tough, and I'm not sure how much they will appreciate my overseas degree and experience," said Li.

But for her, finding a job in Belgium is even harder because many companies here require Chinese candidates to speak fluent French or Dutch, in addition to English.

"The language barrier stops me from getting too many opportunities, even though some companies are keen on finding a Chinese person to explore the Chinese market."

Cheng Shican in Brussels contributed to this story.