With COVID-19, youth unemployment soared in many Member States, pushing up the number of young people who neither work nor are in school or in training (NEETs). In a recent own initiative opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee argues that national recovery plans (NRPs) represent a unique chance to reverse this trend and secure decent work for all young Europeans.

"National recovery plans are a unique opportunity which needs to be seized, with inclusive governance and in open and transparent dialogue," said the rapporteur of the opinion, Nicoletta Merlo.

Expressing regret that "no significant consultation of social partners, youth organisations or organised civil society" took place during the preparation of the NRPs, Ms Merlo said the EESC called for those stakeholders to be involved in the implementation and monitoring of those plans.

"In this way we can safeguard social dialogue at national level, which is essential to make sure that public money is well spent so that we can have an inclusive recovery. We want Member States to develop quality jobs and inclusive services for young people, and in particular those with disabilities and those who are vulnerable for different reasons," Ms Merlo stressed.

The plans should pay particular attention to upskilling young people who need it and a special focus should be placed on open-ended contracts and decent working conditions that limit the risk of many of young workers ending up in precarious employment, which is now often the case.

According to recent Eurostat figures, one in six people below the age of 30 has lost their job due to the economic consequences of COVID-19. Especially worrying is the rising number of NEETs, whose situation further worsened due to school drop-outs, a lack of appropriate guidance, a lack of job opportunities and job losses.

One way of stopping young people from leaving school early is to promote quality traineeships, which can also help them to integrate into labour markets more easily. This is why the EESC calls for a ban on unpaid internships and for decent remuneration for all interns. (ll)