The Youth Forum promotes a smooth transition from education to quality jobs, and advocates for the adoption of policies and measures that ensure decent conditions for young people in the labour market. Despite the high number of unemployed young people, the Youth Forum believes that the precariousness and uncertain times should not be an open door to jobs of poor quality. Young people invest in their present and their future, from today on.
The Youth Forum promotes a smooth transition from education to quality jobs, and advocates for the adoption of policies and measures that ensure decent conditions for young people in the labour market. Despite the high and ever-rising number of unemployed young people, the Youth Forum believes that the precariousness and uncertain times should not be an open door to jobs of poor quality. Young people invest in their present and their future, from today on.
We believe that the creation of quality measures to ensure quality jobs is possible. The Youth Guarantee is a good example. We have promoted the Youth Guarantee for the last 3 years — a guarantee to young NEETS (those not in Education, Employment nor Training) that they will not be excluded from the labour market at such a young age.
We call for an end to the endless cycle of temporary positions that many young people are employed in; we call for policies that ensure young people have access to social protection systems in employment, in order to decrease the risk of poverty and social exclusion; we call for policies to support entrepreneurship and innovation. We advocate for creating a constructive dialogue between youth NGOs, private and public sector, educational institutions and trade unions at all levels, in order to develop existing and new policies of employment, specifically aimed at youth at all levels.
The Youth Forum works to empower young people to participate actively in society to improve their own lives by representing and advocating their needs and interest and those of their organisations.
Estonia has in general seen a marked improvement in youth employment levels from the onset of the crisis until today. During the peak of the economic crisis in 2010, the youth unemployment rate reached a staggering 40.6%; the latest statistics from Eurostat for October 2013, now indicate a large decrease, with a youth unemployment rate of 16.7%.
This improvement has been achieved through a range of measures that span both education and access to the labour market for young people. Programmes that aim to get school drop-outs back into education, such as TULE and KUTSE have continued, whilst a lot of focus has been placed on developing labour market services to be able to provide a faster service and more targeted labour market training services. There have also been several regional-specific measures introduced: a large-scale individual industrial investment support package has helped create new jobs in the Ida-Virumaa region, whilst public employment services have implemented a mobile consulting measure to target the regions where unemployment rates are highest.
However, shortfalls are still present in the measures introduced to combat youth unemployment. The Estonian government has not developed a coordinated, overall plan to implement the Youth Guarantee but has merely introduced individual proposals under the Youth Guarantee label. Furthermore, there is a large lack of information on the public employment services available for youth, meaning that NEETs, young people not in education, employment or training and those at greatest risk of social exclusion, are often not aware of such measures and thus unable to benefit from them.
The current youth unemployment crisis is exacerbating youth poverty in Portugal, condemning many young people to situations that limit their freedom and make them unable to assert their autonomy. According to data published by Eurostat, the overall unemployment rate in Portugal has decreased from 17.6% in May to 17.4%. However, this continues to be the third highest in the Eurozone, with 923,000 unemployed in Portugal. The youth unemployment rate was 36.5% in October 2013.
With the aim of tackling the youth unemployment issue, the Government created the Impulso Jovem(Youth Impulse) programme in 2012. This €344 million programme is based on three axes, internships, supporting employment and entrepreneurship, and investment support. It presents a set of measures to create jobs for young people and encompasses a Strategic Plan of Incentives promoting youth employability and support to small and medium enterprises. An example of these measures is Stimulus 2013, which consists of granting financial support to the employer when they contract an unemployed person registered at the employment centre, with the obligation of providing professional training.
In addition, the Portuguese National Youth Council (CNJ) has urged the government to promote the creation of a new social contract, calling for increased social responsibility from the private sector, involving them in the debate in youth unemployment, and also finding solutions to the crisis, especially based on the simultaneous need for growth and the protection of the rights to employment and social protection. Specifically CNJ has called for targeted measures on quality internships, tackling precarious work, and promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.
The latest statistics from Moldova indicate that the youth unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds is currently at 11.8%. Government measures to raise employment amongst young people have been varied yet not extensive. The National Program for Economic Empowerment of Young People (PNAET) was set up in 2008, and aimed at developing information campaigns for young people regarding entrepreneurial opportunities, and to facilitate access to financing programmes for young entrepreneurs. In order to encourage young entrepreneurs that have emigrated, and deal with the so-called ‘brain-drain’, the government also set up the ‘Pare 1 + 1’ programme whereby a young entrepreneur that has emigrated is eligible to receive double the amount that they invest if the money invested has come from abroad.
The issues identified with these measures to combat youth unemployment are that they are not extensive enough and lack a wide reach. There is a clear absence of a strategic plan on the topic of youth employment, resulting also in the fact that mechanisms for civil society including youth organisations to be involved in the process are non-existent.
Full report of the National Youth Council of Moldova
In April 2013, the youth unemployment rate in Serbia stood at 49.7%. In May 2011 the National Employment Strategy for the period 2011-2020 was adopted with specific measures targeted at young people, who are recognised as a category of persons with fewer opportunities for employment. These measures include the development of career guidance and counselling, incentives for employers to hire young people and support to young entrepreneurs as well as an apprenticeship program entitled First Chance, targeting youth up to 30 years of age with at least secondary education and providing training and work experience to young workers by covering enterprises’ training costs and the salaries of apprentices.
Unfortunately, not enough has been invested in these targeted measures. In July 2013 the budget for the year for Active Labour Market Policies for the entire population was set at 1.2 billion dinars (€10 million). Such restrictive investment ultimately means that the national measures implemented to combat youth unemployed have a limited effect on a limited number of young people.
In Spain, in order to address a spiraling youth unemployment rate that was over 57% in October 2013,the government recently rolled out the National Strategy for Entrepreneurship and Youth Employment 2013-2016. The Strategy has a budget of approximately €3.5 billion and a total of 100 action measures aiming to integrate young people in the labour market, either as employees or through entrepreneurship. This includes 15 early-impact measures, which are expected to have an effect in the short term and aim to stimulate hiring and entrepreneurship, and improve mediation education, training and employability. These include extending training programmes leading to certificates of proficiency, training programmes with an employment commitment, and the creation of incentives for unemployed persons who left school early to obtain the Compulsory Secondary Education qualification.
There has been a specific emphasis on the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment in the strategy, with tax reduction for self-employed workers, and measures to incentivize hiring young people on ‘first job’ and ‘work experience’ contacts.
Although Ireland has seen a gradual reduction in its rate of youth unemployment in 2012 and 2013, it is still above the EU average. In terms of macro-economic policy the Irish government has sought to make the domestic economy more competitive and attract foreign direct investment to create jobs. Unfortunately this has taken place against a background of significant austerity which has depressed the economy and increased unemployment, particularly among young people. The overall Government plan to address unemployment, The Action Plan for Jobs, was launched in 2012.
In relation to youth unemployment, following campaigning by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) and others, the Government made political progress on the Youth Guarantee during the Irish Presidency a priority. In February 2013 political agreement was reached and in June a youth employment package of €6bn for 2014-2015 was agreed upon. An interdepartmental group of Government officials was recently established to develop a plan for submission to the European Commission later this year. The Government also successfully secured funding to undertake a pilot Youth Guarantee project in Ballymun, Dublin. NYCI was invited to be part of the steering group for the project.
NYCI has been critical of the failure of the current and the previous Government over their lack of action on youth unemployment. While some action and initiatives have been taken, they have been insufficient to address the crisis. NYCI have welcomed the government’s commitment to the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, but will follow the process closely to ensure that it is implemented in a way that works for the interests of young people and helps to address youth unemployment in both the short and long-term.
Croatia’s youth unemployment rate is currently one of the highest in Europe, in September 2013 standing at 52.4%. Between 2008 and 2012 the youth unemployment grew twice as fast as the general unemployment rate increasing by 58% in the four-year period.
The government has responded to this trend through a range of measures aimed at helping young people acquire first work experience through internships opportunities, at bringing different vulnerable social groups closer to the labour market (including young Roma people, youth with disabilities and national minorities), and at shortening the waiting time for a young persons’ access to their first employment opportunity.
However, there are strong weaknesses in the various measures proposed. Research shows that expenditure on Active Labour Market Measures is lower in Croatia than in other EU countries, with active employment programmes taking up only around 10-16% of total expenditures of the Croatian Employment Service. Furthermore, there is a clear lack of coordination among key stakeholders as shown in the preparations for the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, which commenced without a clear strategic framework and without consultation of social partners. Furthermore, implementation of the measures proposed has been problematic. Internships, for example, have mostly been organised in the public sector with no real chances of employment after completion of the internship programme. In fact, the measures to combat youth unemployment in Croatia have, in general, not brought anything new to the table. The trend shows that already existing measures have merely been expanded to an extended group of beneficiaries.
The two areas on which the Youth Forum has been working the most on a European level have been the youth guarantee, and the promotion of a European framework for quality internships and apprenticeships.
THE YOUTH GUARANTEE: European Context and Developments
On the 28th February 2013 the Council of the EU reached a political agreement on the establishment of youth guarantee schemes, which aim to ensure that unemployed young people are offered employment or training in as short a timeframe as possible.
The Council agreed on a Recommendation for a Youth Guarantee, as a direct response to a proposal from the European Commission on the 5th December 2012, as part of its ‘Youth Employment Package’. The Council supported the Commission’s assertion that all young people under the age of 25 who lose their job or do not find work after leaving school should receive an offer of quality-employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within 4 months.
The Council recommended that Member States implement the schemes as soon as possible, preferably as from 2014. The 18 Member States eligible for EU funding for the Youth Guarantee have submitted Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans. Some of them can be found in English on the European Commission website.
The rationale behind the scheme is that a direct response is required from public employment services (PES) and educational and training providers in order to address the youth unemployment crisis in Europe. Based on the Scandinavian model the scheme would aim to dramatically reduce the amount of people who fall into the category of not in employment, education of training.
Research from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has shown that when these schemes receive adequate investment and the necessary re-orientation of public employment services towards the needs of young people they can substantially reduce levels of youth unemployment.
The youth guarantee is a measure geared at preventing the onset of long-term unemployment (LTU) among young people. LTU has increased by 3.7% among young people since 2008, compared with an increase of 1.8% for the adult population, and 30.1% of young unemployed people in the EU have been unemployed for 12 months or more. Considering that LTU when young can have profound effect on employability and career development in the medium to long-term, the current youth unemployment crisis could impact Europe for the next 20 years.
Experience from the Swedish Job Guarantee and the Finnish Youth Guarantee shows that for the effective implementation of these schemes, public employment services are obliged to develop a personal development plan for the jobseeker, carry out a needs assessment of what support is needed and to offer a job, study place or another ‘activation measure’ before a protracted period of unemployment.
The scheme involves close partnerships between PES, the business sector, education providers and relevant civil society actors. It can also involve the reform of PES in order that they match the needs of young people.
The Swedish and Finnish examples of the youth guarantee show that in the short-term the scheme can put PES under hugely increased demand. In Sweden the young people participating in the scheme increased from 10,000 in 2008 to 53,000 in 2010. There were successful outcomes for 46% of young people.
In Finland in 2009, due to a combination of increased demand and public finance issues, there was only 1 youth adviser per 700 clients. In 2010 Finland increased its budget to its PES to meet the demand from young people. As a result, in 2011 83.5% of young jobseekers received a successful intervention within 3 months of registering as unemployed.
The youth guarantee is a major commitment. In order to be implemented fully, there needs to be significant investment in public employment services so that they are able to provide tailored services to young people. When the scheme is implemented without sufficient resources it can become overloaded and unmanageable. A relabeling or re-packaging of current failed systems will not suffice.
In 2012, the ILO reported that €21 billion euros, which roughly equates to 0.5% of Eurozone spending, would be required to effectively implement the youth guarantee. This is roughly based on the Swedish model of implementation. Currently youth unemployment is costing the equivalent of 1.2% of EU GDP per year. According to ILO estimates the scheme would require an investment of €16.6 billion in the programme itself and the remaining €4.3 billion to cover the cost necessary to ensure that public employment services are adequately staffed so as to effectively implement the programme. This roughly equates to an investment of around €6000 per young person participating in the scheme. Although the exact amount of investment required depends on the national situation, both the Austrian and Swedish youth guarantees involve an investment of between €5500 and €8000 per young person.
The ILO report also warned that failure to decisively act on the youth jobs crisis would have severe negative consequences on growth prospects as a result of reduced labour supply and increased future skill mismatches, which further delay recovery.
In terms of cost-benefit ratio, a study of Swedish measures concluded that the average investment of €7,809 is usually recouped within one year and average profitability in the first year is at €4200 per participant, with profitability accumulating over time. In particular, avoiding unemployment and a deterioration of skills among young people would lead to longer-term benefits, both for the individuals concerns for the broader economy through lower unemployment over the course of the lifecycle, higher incomes (and therefore also higher tax incomes and social security contributions) and through fewer social and health problems.
Taking this into consideration, the Youth Forum believes that the €6 billion earmarked for the Youth Employment Initiative under the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework is insufficient to fully address the problem. Only a youth guarantee scheme that receives adequate investment, is accessible to all, and works in the interests of young people will be able to address youth unemployment and boost the European economy.
QUALITY INTERNSHIPS: European context and developments
Developments in the labour market over the past number of years have clearly resulted in a more difficult transition from education to employment. The Youth Forum believes that internships and apprenticeships can play a key role in facilitating this transition if certain quality principles are ensured
Despite the fact that internships have fast become a standard feature in the European labour market, the nature and strictness of regulatory frameworks varies widely across EU member states – in some Member States there is no legal definition of internships. With such a widespread absence of mechanisms to regulate internships schemes, internship quality risks being very low, with insufficient learning content and inadequate working conditions, undermining the value of internships in helping young people increase their employability and access the labour market.
In 2011 the European Youth Forum conducted a survey on internship quality in Europe. ‘Interns Revealed: A Study on internship Quality in Europe’ revealed that three out of four interns receive insufficient or no compensation for their internship. Internships taking place outside formal education are replacing quality employment for young people and creating further hurdles to entering the labour market. A recent Eurobarometer survey highlighted the same issues with over one third of internships substandard in terms of learning content and working conditions, and only 40% of interns reporting that they received remuneration for their internship.
In response to this state of play, the Youth Forum developed the European Quality Charter for Internships and Apprenticeships. The Charter outlines the basic minimum criteria that internship providers must ensure so that internships are a fair, safe and valuable experience for young people. Internships should be primarily a learning experience and should never replace a paid job. As such, there must be a legally binding contract between the intern and hosting organisation outlining the main principles of the internship, as well as a description of learning objectives and tasks that should be fulfilled.
For internships as part of formal education the intern must have the right to receive reimbursement of costs incurred during the internship. For internships taking place outside of formal education there must be a guarantee of decent remuneration meaning remuneration not below 60% of the median income of the country or the national minimum wage, if more favourable. Internship remuneration should be regulated either in law or by collective agreements in accordance with national practice.
European Commission Proposal for a Quality Framework on Traineeships
On the 4th December 2013, the Commission approved a proposal for a Quality Framework for Traineeships. The proposal follows repeated calls by the European Parliament and the European Council for a European-level framework to ensure that quality can be ensured in internships. The proposal aims at improving the quality of traineeships by setting standards and calling on Member States to ensure that national law or practice respect them.
The proposal is very much in line with the European Youth Forum’s Quality Charter in the following requirements it stipulates for internships that take place outside formal education:
However, the proposal does not express a strong position on the right of interns to receive remuneration and/or adequate compensation meaning that the proposal does not deal with the issue that many interns do not have the financial means to carry out unpaid internships. Quality frameworks must ensure that payment is provided as a key right in order to guarantee full accessibility of internships to young people regardless of their social background and thus ensure a fair and equal access to the labour market.
The Youth Forum calls for an urgent establishment of national legislation aligned with the principles set in the proposal and the implementation and promotion of the Recommendation as foreseen in the EC proposal both at European and national levels.
QUALITY APPRENTICESHIPS: European context and developments
The European Alliance for Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships and Vocational Education and Training as a whole are often cited as key factors for the low youth unemployment rates of countries such as Germany, Austria and Denmark that have very strong systems of dual education in place. For this reason, there has been a European-wide policy shift towards work-based learning as one way of tackling youth unemployment and ensuring that young peoples’ skills match those required in the labour market.
As a response to this and as announced in the Youth Employment Package of December 2012, the European Commission launched in July 2013 the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. The Alliance aims to improve the supply and quality of apprenticeship schemes in Europe as well as change mind-sets towards Vocational Education and Training. The Alliance is designed to promote peer-learning, knowledge transfer and partnerships on reforming VET systems whilst advancing and promoting further research into the benefits of apprenticeships for learners, companies and society as a whole.
The European Youth Forum maintains, as stated in the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships, that for such an initiative to be effective the focus on the quality of apprenticeships must be maintained. Apprenticeships should primarily be a learning experience for young people; they should include mentoring and guidance of the apprentice, a contract regulating working conditions and rights of the apprentice, access to social protection, and decent remuneration. Quality VET systems, and apprenticeships in particular, are not only about developing professional skills but should also aim at equipping young people to be active citizens; and therefore aiming at young people’s personal and professional development.
Report on social inclusion and young people (May 2016)
Resolution of the European Youth Forum on Youth autonomy and inclusion (April 2016)
Position Paper on the Youth Guarantee (August 2015)
Resolution of the European Youth Forum (April 2015)
Youth in the crisis: what went wrong?
Youth organisations and the Youth Guarantee in Europe
Quality Jobs for Young People
A Youth Guarantee for Europe
Policy Paper on Youth Employment
Position Paper on Youth Entrepreneurship
Policy Paper on Vocational Education and Training
Position Paper – LoveYouthFuture: A New European Deal for and with Youth