Education to employment: Getting Europe’s youth into work

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McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company

Youth unemployment across the European Union remains unacceptably high, to the detriment of current and future generations. Addressing it requires understanding its causes and then relentlessly pursuing solutions.

The problem of youth unemployment in the European Union is not new. Youth unemployment has been double or even triple the rate of general unemployment in Europe for the last 20 years. The events of the past few years have dramatically exacerbated it, however: 5.6 million young people are unemployed across Europe, and a total of 7.5 million are neither being educated nor are they working. Moreover, while young people are eager to work, more than half of those without jobs say they simply can’t find one—all while businesses across Europe insist they struggle to find young people with the skills they need.

To understand this disconnect and what can be done about it, McKinsey built on the methodology used in our 2012 publication, Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works.

We concentrated on four broad questions:

  • Is the scale of the youth-unemployment problem in Europe a result of lack of jobs, lack of skills, or lack of coordination?
  • What are the obstacles that youth face on their journey from education to employment?
  • Which groups of youth and employers in Europe are struggling the most?
  • What can be done to address the problem?

To answer these questions, we surveyed 5,300 youth, 2,600 employers, and 700 postsecondary-education providers across 8 countries that together are home to almost 73 percent of Europe’s 5.6 million jobless youth: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We also examined more than 100 programs in 25 countries to provide examples of companies, governments, education providers, and nongovernmental organizations that may be relevant to Europe.