Learn lessons to avert youth jobs crisis: report

Job crisis

Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands all hold lessons for countries seeking to ease what German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls Europe's biggest burden - youth unemployment, a think-tank said on Tuesday.

The London-based Work Foundation said there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem because the reasons for long-standing cross-country differences in jobless rates are complex.

But it said Germany's renowned vocational training system, Denmark's strenuous efforts to head off long-term youth unemployment at an early stage and the role played by flexible jobs in the Netherlands all deserved attention.

Youth unemployment, defined as a share of the total population aged 15-24, rose by 2 percentage points in the European Union between 2007 and 2011 to over 9 percent and by a whopping 11 points in Spain to 21 percent.

But the rate was unchanged in the Netherlands and fell by 2 percentage points in Germany, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Youth unemployment is much worse - exceeding 50 percent in Spain and Greece - if measured as a percentage of the economically active population, which excludes students and those in training.

By any measure, Europe is facing a major crisis that governments must tackle with all the means at their disposal, Stefano Scarpetta, the OECD's deputy director for employment, said at the launch of the report.

"I am actually somewhat surprised that in some countries where youth unemployment is 50 percent or more there are not more social tensions," he said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Merkel said steps may be needed to prevent political and social instability from breaking out.

"Our main task must be to present perspectives and possibly even to provide bridging measures until they lead to a decline in unemployment. That's what the near future is about," she said.

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