Reducing youth unemployment in the City of Amsterdam

Short summary

In early 2016, unemployment among the youth in Amsterdam dropped below the national average. In the past two years, the unemployment rate among young people decreased from 14.7% to 9.3%. How did the city of Amsterdam achieve this decline in youth unemployment?

 The city has executed a well-defined project plan that focuses on creating jobs for young people and returning young people back to school that dropped out of education in recent years. All youth should be at school or at work!

The project plan “Aanvalsplan Jeugdwerkeloosheid” (plan to tackle unemployment among young people) is a joint initiative of the city council, neighborhood councils, schools in Amsterdam, Ajax (football club) and regional employers’ organizations.  The main objective of the plan is to equip people with a “start qualification”. This qualification includes at least a secondary school degree complimented with business competences like acumen, attitude and behavior.

The main focus point is tackling early school leaving. Every neighborhood council has established a youth center that cooperates with schools and local businesses with the objectives to return young people without a degree to school and create actual paid jobs to enable young people to learn, get experienced and earn money as well. The neighborhood councils know all the young people who are unemployed and do not have a secondary school degree. Social workers visit these young people at home with the objective to get them back to school. Each individual is coached on a personal basis.  

One of the companies that support the program is Makro Amsterdam. Makro offers job opportunities to young people in Amsterdam that enables them to get educated and gain professional experience in order to become attractive employees for the business world. 49 Persons out of the 55 young people who started working at Makro Amsterdam did not return to the youth centers of the municipalities.

Context of good practice

All young people deserve a chance to become successful and active citizen of Amsterdam. That is the reason why the city of Amsterdam has initiated the Aanvalsplan Jeugdwerkeloosheid. In the period 2015 to 2018, the project aims to get 21.000 young people employed or educated. To realize these ambitious goals, the city council has established seven Youth Centers for Work and Education. The youth counselors are responsible for the well-being of the young people and aim to get all people educated. If needed, the counselors visit the young people at home.

The youth centers work closely together with the local businesses, schools and Ajax (football)

In 2015 and 2016, 10.500 young people found a job or returned to school.  

Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group

In Amsterdam, there are 135.000 young people aged 15 to 27 years old. In total, 11.100 young people have left school without a diploma. In 2016, 2.200 young people dropped out of school before graduation and 2.600 Young people received social welfare payments. From a comparative perspective, 48% of young people with a Moroccan background are unemployed, compared to 14% overall.  

 Most of these young people are very vulnerable because they are not fully qualified to enter the labour market. 

 In 2015, the national unemployment rate among young people was 14.7%. A relatively high percentage of these people do not have a secondary school degree. These people are, according to the Dutch law, not qualified to start a successful career in today’s society.  

 In large cities the unemployment rates are usually higher than the national average. These young people are often bored and walk the streets most of the days, often that leads to criminal activities.    

 The challenge of the program is to substantially reduce the number of inactive (no job / no study) young people. During the four years,  the city will:

  • Engage and draft a plan with all inactive young people.
  • Guide 21.000 back to school or to employment.

 The city of Amsterdam involved the seven neighbourhoods with the highest unemployment rates in the city, the schools and the regional employers’ organisations.   Together, they established seven youth centres which in total employ over 100 youth workers.

 The centres run a program that focuses on all 21.000 inactive young people with limited perspective to become. The above mentioned youth workers are acting as advisors of the young people at risk. They connect with partners in the region and the person at risk and develop a personal plan to either stay in school or find a job.

Success factors and processes

This program brings together the city council, the neighbourhood councils, the employer organisation and the schools.

The work includes:

  • 7 youth centres were established
  • Over 100 persons were employed by the youth centres.
  • Many jobs (paid / part time) were created by the employers’ organisation in cooperation with the local businesses.
  • All young people were engaged on an individual basis
  • For every person a plan was drafted that included individual actions. 
  • The youth workers guided the persons back to school.
  • The youth workers visited the persons at their job

 Each inactive young person will be guided individually. The schools and the youth workers work closely together. If a student drops out of school, the youth worker will be notified. The youth worker will engage the person and his or her options will be discussed. This process does not take longer than 4 weeks. As a result, many young people will be guided back to school or to employment. 

 The co-operation with the local football club Ajax intends to boost the spirit of the young people involved. This football club is famous for facing challenges and achieving their goals. Sports can help overcome mentality challenges. The trainings with Ajax are meant to build the self-esteem and winners mentality of young people at risk.

 The schools committed to improve their education by focussing on employability competences like dealing with rules, communication skills, social skills and working in teams. 

 Another essential part of the program is named ‘Perspectiefbanen’.

Perspectiefbanen can be translated into Perspective Jobs. The employers organisation together with the city council create jobs that last 6 months that are intended to offer young people their first experience in the business world. These jobs are real, paid jobs.  

 In total, the city invest 28.000.000 Euros in the 4 year program.

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Target group of good practice:

Policy makers


The Netherlands


Henk Krauwel Ambassador


City of Amsterdam

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