SIPTU has endorsed the Government’s commitment to pursue the introduction of a ‘Youth Guarantee’ across Europe during the Irish Presidency of the European Union. The Youth Guarantee proposal will be the main focus of an informal meeting of the EU Social Protection Ministers in Dublin on Friday, 8th February.   The idea is to provide young people under 25 years of age with education, training, work-placement or other labour market activation opportunities, within four months of becoming unemployed. Similar systems already exist in several member states, including Austria, Finland and Sweden. In Ireland 29% or 43,400 young people aged 20 to 24 were unemployed in the second quarter of 2012. Given that emigration has acted as a release valve, the real level may be underestimated. SIPTU researcher, Lorraine Mulligan, said: “The rate of youth unemployment in Ireland is among the highest in the EU. However, the rate of young people under 29 years who are ‘not in employment, education or training’ (referred to as ‘NEETs’) is elevated at 18.4% in Ireland. In the main, this category has a heightened risk of being disengaged or distant from the labour market.” She added: “The expansion of apprenticeship/structured traineeships and vocational education should be prioritised as part of the roll-out of a ‘Youth Guarantee’ in Ireland, allowing young people to gain recognised industry-relevant qualifications.”