Why did employment growth - high in the last decade– take place at the expense of young workers in the countries of Central and Southern Europe ? This is the question addressed in this paper. Youth unemployment has approached or exceeded 20% despite a variety of factors, common to most EU countries. According to neo-classical economics all would be expected to exert a positive impact on its evolution: population ageing and the demographic decline, low labor cost of young workers, flexibility of working arrangements, higher educational attainment, low unionization of young workers, early retirement practices of workers 50+. But neither seems to provide a convincing explanation. Historically based institutions and political tradition, cultural values, social capital – factors that go beyond the standard explanation of economic theory – provide a more satisfying interpretation.