New figures from Eurostat which show that unemployment in the 15 to 24 age group in Ireland stands at just under 31%, must push this crisis to the top of the political agenda, according to SIPTU policy analyst Loraine Mulligan. The Irish rate has now reached 30.8% in February 2013. The previous high for youth unemployment in Ireland was 30.5% in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the Euro area average of 21.4%. Loraine Mulligan said: “The effect of emigration almost certainly conceals the full extent of the problem. The picture across Europe is also worrying, particularly in Spain and Greece, with youth unemployment rates of almost 50%.  Action is urgently required to provide vulnerable young people with opportunities to enhance their prospects for work and progression.“The most exposed category to consider is the so-called ‘NEETs’, those young people ‘not in employment, education or training’.  The rate of NEETs aged 15 to 24 in Ireland is 18.4%, according to a recent study by Eurofound. This is significantly higher than the average EU rate of 12.9%.”She added: “The Government must utilise the €6 billion funding recently agreed as part of the ‘Youth Guarantee’ at EU level in order to assist young people into the workforce.  This will require the Government to commit resources over a period of time.  Engagement with the social partners is urgently needed to work out how to best implement a programme of supports for young people, emphasising the need for quality with regard to training/further education and workplace opportunities.”