In Spain, public policies of a monetary nature aimed at young adults are insignificant as a proportion of total public spending (Villar, 2014) and there are few benefits intended to improve the conditions of life of this age group. Most youth-related programmes are run by autonomous community and local authorities, though there are some bodies at a national level involved in decision-making in relation to this collective, such as INJUVE (the Spanish Youth Institute) and the Youth Council. In addition, the government has drawn up the 2020 Youth Strategy, its goal being to establish a frame of reference for youth policies in Spain, to encourage co-ordination between public bodies in this field and to implement initiatives and programmes for teenagers and young adults aged between 16 and 29 in various areas, among them education, employment, housing, health, participation in society and international co-operation. It should be noted that around 90% of the budget allocated to the 2020 Youth Strategy goes to employment and entrepreneurship policies, while other areas in which young adults have sizeable social needs, such as access to housing and leaving the parental home, are largely ignored (European Commission, 2018a).
Even though youth employment policies in general receive more financing than other policies, they are not sufficient to mitigate young adults’ poor situation in the job market. Specifically, there are a number of programmes aimed at combatting youth unemployment, temporary contracts and dropping out of training. Thus, the training and apprenticeship contract is intended to help youngsters aged 16 to 25 with no work experience to gain employment and professional skills. This contract includes a programme of training for the worker as well as a range of tax credits for companies. Similarly, every member state of the EU has implemented the Youth Guarantee contracts, aimed at young adults aged under 25 who have been unemployed or dropped out of formal education for at least four months. It is framed as a programme to enable young adults to access quality jobs with continuing education and training, the main goal being to reduce the number of people aged between 15 and 24 who are not in employment, education or training (known as NEETs). As can be seen in figure 9, the percentage of NEETs in Spain is above the European average: in 2018, 12.4% of young adults were not working or receiving any form of education, as opposed to 10.5% of the European young adult population, though this figure had fallen by two percentage points since 2008.
The Youth Guarantee has been implemented in the various EU countries in a number of ways, with different outcomes in terms of the incorporation of young adults into the labour market. The figure shows the percentage of young adults who were neither working nor studying covered by the Youth Guarantee in 2016. This percentage is 34% in Spain, below the European average and close to countries such as Estonia and Lithuania. In the upper part of the ranking are countries like Austria, Finland and Belgium, with coverage rates of over 70%. Even though our country has seen improvements in youth employment in recent years, these results demonstrate that there is a need to improve the quality of the jobs offered through this programme and to increase the coverage rate, as well as to support job placements for the beneficiaries of this initiative when this Youth Guarantee comes to an end (European Commission, 2018b).
Furthermore, there is currently no general plan to improve young adults’ access to housing. The lack of access to accommodation makes it impossible for young adults to move out of the parental home and increases the age at which this group can do so. There is a general programme of housing rental benefits for citizens with limited financial resources: the beneficiary’s income may not be higher than three times the IPREM (an income indicator used for means-testing purposes), and the amount of rent paid must not be greater than 600 euros a month. The substantial increase in rental prices in our country means that only a very small number of young adults are able to apply for this benefit, which is virtually non-applicable in major cities.
At autonomous community level, there are also tax credits for housing rental by young adults and deductions for main home purchases, as well as certain municipal aids, though the sums allocated to these policies are extremely low and the requirements are such that a large part of the young adult population is excluded from them.
Lastly, the Spanish system of taxes and benefits redistributes the incomes of the youngest generations less than in the case of other demographic groups, which, combined with their low pay, lack of steady jobs and the instability of the labour market, places this population group in a worse relative position. As Cantó (2019) points out, while the system reduces by almost 60% the inequality among individuals living in households where all the members are over 40, it does so by only 15% among households of young adults. This is due mainly to the importance of contributory pensions and benefits in our country.
Do we have quality education? In this report we analyse three fundamental
dimensions: access to sufficient educational level, obtaining of adequate
knowledge to contribute to economic and social development, and degree of
inclusion of the education system.
Deprivations during childhood become unequal opportunities in adulthood.
Understanding the conditions in which this population segment lived prior
to the covid-19 crisis can help to prepare for the future.