Bleak prospects for the "iGeneration".

IF – 01/2021

Children and young people born after 1996 are the first digital natives and they are also referred to as the "iGeneration". Smartphones, tablets and laptops are constant companions of this generation. Within the EU, this important population group is very well educated, but it cannot really gain a foothold in the existing labour market.

Even before the crisis, these young people were at high risk of poverty. School closures and job losses have now made the situation far worse. The impact of the pandemic on children and young people has recently been examined in detail by the European Parliamentary Research Service in a study titled "Next generation, lost generation?" that was published in December 2020. You can find the entire study here:

Youth policy based on European policy

The well-being, educational success and integration of this generation in the labour market will have a significant impact on Europe's long-term economic performance in the coming years. The EC’s President, Ursula von der Leyen has also recognised this. Half of the Commissioners have been entrusted with tasks that directly address the challenges faced by the "iGeneration". For example, access to education, health, housing and labour markets, the fight against poverty and the protection of children's rights are to be taken into account in many policy areas when it comes to new European initiatives.

Young people of today will shape the labour market of tomorrow

Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, is making a significant political contribution to the future of the "iGeneration". This is because he must ensure that social security systems are adapted to the new reality of the world of work in times of pandemic for this generation as well. Commissioner Schmit has already unveiled an updated skills agenda in 2020 and a programme to support youth employment, including increased assistance for young entrepreneurs who often launch start-ups.

The European Pillar of Social Rights as a support for the "iGeneration"?

Commissioner Schmit will also have to take the "iGeneration" into account in the action plan for implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights. The action plan is expected in the first quarter of 2021. In addition to education, fair working conditions and adequate social security systems, this action plan will encompass other principles relevant to improving the lives of the youngest generation, including access to services and affordable housing. Social security systems currently tend to protect older workers and older people.

The reality of numbers

As a result of the crisis, one in six young people who were employed before the outbreak lost their jobs, especially younger workers aged between 18 and 24. Young people in lower income countries were particularly affected by reductions in working times and incomes. More than 2 million people under 25 were unemployed in the euro zone in 2020. In this respect, the pandemic has dealt another heavy blow to "iGeneration” integration.

Reducing personnel is now the trend

Another detail of why young people find it difficult to integrate into the labour market is the problem of an ever-shrinking workforce. The EC’s first 2020 demographic report highlights the fact that a shrinking workforce will also intensify the urban/rural labour market divide.

The fact is that the "iGeneration" will be exposed to increased mental and physical strain as they support the rest of the European population on their entry into the workforce. For this reason, special attention needs to be paid to the "iGeneration" at European level especially with regard to future contributors to the maintenance of the social security systems.