On European Youth Plan Action Day SOLIDAR Foundation hosted a lunch time debate on the Impact of the economic crisis on youth. The aim of this event was to present the first findings from the research project NEGOTIATE, look at measures such as the Youth Guarantee and discuss approaches to tackle youth unemployment and improve youth’s position on the labour market.
Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Foundation Secretary General in his opening address encouraged the audience to act for youth by building alliances between politics, research and organisations all over Europe. “The problem of youth unemployment and job insecurity we are facing today is a long standing issue that has become more complicated over the years. We need a Youth Guarantee that is filled in with life, and truly European collaboration and cooperation to achieve that”.
The scientific coordinator of NEGOTIATE; Prof. Bjorn Hvinden gave a brief presentation of the project and its endeavour to contribute to a broader discussion on youth unemployment and early job-insecurity in Europe. One of the main contributions from the project will be to develop the understanding of how people across time and space have similar and different experiences of tackling job-insecurity, focusing on stimulating young people’s own capability. Moreover, NEGOTIATE will provide new and better knowledge on this topic.
The recently published impact study on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee by the European Commission praises the fact that 14 million young people entered the programme and 9 million have taken up an offer within the framework of the Youth Guarantee. There is a political will to continue with the programme but there are also a number of challenges, as the funding pledged is only enough to cover a small part of the initial proposal in the first financial cycle, affecting the quality of the offer and accessibility. The potential lack of resources will break the established structures, and there is a need as well to offer actual working places not only in-work training.
NEGOTIATE research shows that the crisis has had an uneven impact on job insecurity across the nation states of Europe, yet regardless of its size it takes a toll on youth in the short and long term. One of the tools offered to fight against youth unemployment is the Youth Guarantee. The invited panelists representing politics, youth and trade unions presented their views on current developments and ideas for improvement.
The first panelist, Enrique Calvet Chambon, MEP, of the ALDE group, drew attention to a huge challenge regarding NEETs that his native Spain is facing. There is a strong commitment to fighting unemployment and the lack of skills, but in Spain the most important fight is the parallel fight against exclusion. Currently in Spain we have an entire lost generation. It is essential to fight against growing inequality at the regional level too, and adopt a more hands on approach to assess the implementation limitations to overcome them.
The regional differences in quality and outcomes were echoed by Thiébaut Weber, Confederal Secretary of the ETUC. The unions are advocating for more investment in youth, and believe that everyone should have a legal right to receive guidance. There is a need therefore to upscale the youth guarantee and ensure further investment in the young.
The representative of the Belgian Youth Council called for the protection of social rights. First there needs to be a legal framework for traineeship and apprenticeship, as currently young people have no protection at all. Many young work people work with no contracts or pay in a situation that is comparable to modern slavery. Second there has to be a minimum wage for young people, as having no income during their period of unemployment between finishing education and finding a job is a real threat to young people’s autonomy.
Lastly, Sergei Stanishev, MEP, and President of the PES, shared his perspective that “for the first time Europe is not offering better chances for the young” He appealed for action and for those concerned to begin to exert real pressure “as there is unfortunately not enough political will in Europe at the moment” to deliver real solutions; and the current attitude will lead to the death of the Youth Guarantee.