-- British policymakers are not alone in grappling with the problem of youth unemployment as the number of young jobless in the UK edges towards a million.

In the 17 countries forming the eurozone, joblessness among the young now stands at 20.4 per cent, up from 14.6 per cent in February 2008, before the start of the financial crisis.

In all European Union countries, youth unemployment rates are higher than mainstream joblessness, often by a factor of two to one. Only Germany and the Netherlands have youth unemployment rates below 10 per cent.

Policymakers in Brussels have warned of a "lost generation" of young workers, and worry that employment gaps in the early stages of a career can affect wages for several years, if not decades.

"Young people trying to get into the labour market is the biggest employment issue in Europe right now," said John Monks, general secretary of the European trade union confederation, a Brussels-based umbrella group. "Europe hasn't been too bad at keeping people in existing jobs, but it's getting a job in the first place that's the difficult bit."

He warned that many were taking part-time or low-paid temping work, meaning the underlying picture is even worse than the figures suggest.


The number of young jobless in Germany fell in 2010 as the country rebounded strongly from the economic crisis. In January 2011, 6.5 per cent of 15-25 year olds -- 305,000 youths in all -- were unemployed, down from 7.5 per cent a year earlier. This relatively low level is also the result of demographic developments. Germany's population is ageing, and the birth rate falling.

However, there is still a sharp divide between east and west Germany. More than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unemployment rate in eastern Länder -- at 10.8 per cent -- is twice as high as in the west of the country.


France has long had a problem creating jobs for its young people.

Youth unemployment during the downturn has increased more than twice the overall rate, according to an OECD report, and in the second quarter of 2009 almost one youth in four was jobless compared with one in ten among all workers.

The global crisis has also encouraged a rapid growth in short-term contracts rather than full-time permanent employment, leaving French youth increasingly vulnerable and among the poorest segment of society.

According to official statistics, roughly 800,000 young people arrive on the job market every year, with only 650,000 pensioners quitting the labour market.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, aware that this will be one of the major issues of the presidential campaign due to get under way later this year, last week announced a series of measures aimed at getting youth and the long-term unemployed back into work, ordering government ministries to make a further €500m in savings to fund new initiatives.

He has also introduced a bonus system to reduce social charges for companies that take on more than the required number of apprentices.


With the collapse of the property market and the onset of recession, unemployment in Ireland has risen sharply, particularly among 15-19 year olds where the rate was 36.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2010, against a national level of 13.9 per cent. Economists say this may understate the problem, with participation rates falling as people go back to education and the country sees a return to large-scale emigration.


Official figures last week showed the jobless rate among young Greeks hit a record 35 per cent last November. It is forecast to rise further as recession continues, with the economy set to shrink by 3 per cent this year.

The public sector is hiring one recruit for every five who leave or retire, while private companies are cutting payrolls. Many university graduates are seeking jobs abroad.

"I'm close to landing a job in Australia where I have relatives. Emigrating is a big step but there doesn't seem to be an alternative," said Antonis Iliades, 23, an economics graduate who has been unemployed since last October when his seasonal job as a hotel barman ended.


But it is Spain that has the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe, with 42.8 per cent of under-25s seeking work - more than double the 19.1 per cent rate of mainstream unemployment.