Greater local and regional flexibility are crucial for the success of the EU's Youth Employment Support

On 1 July 2020, the European Commission announced its plan to support youth employment. The measures proposed under the “Youth Employment Support” package aim to “help the next generation of Europeans to thrive and get on the jobs ladder, especially at this time of crisis” as the executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, said.

The “Bridge to Jobs”  strand builds on the successful results of the Youth Guarantee, a commitment of all EU Member States to ensure good quality employment or training for young people under the age of 25, established in 2013. “Bridge to Jobs” raises the age limit from 25 to 29 years (starting at 15) and focuses more on inclusivity of the most vulnerable groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, or young people living in some rural, remote or disadvantaged urban areas. The proposed measures also aim to better link skills with the needs of employers, especially in the area of green and digital transition, and strengthen the partnerships among services and stakeholders.

These proposals are in line with the recent findings of the ESPON project YUTRENDS about youth unemployment, the related territorial trends and regional resilience. The project gathered data to examine the spatial and temporal effects of the economic crisis in 2008 on youth unemployment in Europe. One of the conclusions is that better coordination among youth-employment initiatives and stronger collaboration with the employers are crucial elements to increase the effectiveness of any measures on the local and national level.

YUTRENDS recorded that the national Youth Guarantee or similar programmes are highly effective when adjusted to the local context and implemented flexibly with a degree of local autonomy. This was the case, for example, in Turin, Italy, where the metropolitan region activated parts of the national Youth Guarantee to bring together scattered activities, thus attracting young people towards labour services. With their specific approach, Turin metropolitan region managed to establish cooperation between public and private stakeholders and to adapt the Youth Guarantee to local circumstances.

Likewise, the Autonomous Community of Navarre in Spain successfully adapted the centrally administered Youth Guarantee to local circumstances by developing own policies to tackle youth unemployment. These are characterized by the participation of all relevant regional stakeholders in the field of youth, including social partners, along with the close coordination of the employment, education and youth services.

The “Bridge to Jobs” strand will be carried out through stronger partnerships with local services, employers and other stakeholders, and the Member States will be encouraged to provide integrated services, such as one-stop-shops.  The collaboration between the key players that support youth is a common theme in many of the case studies of YUTRENDS, and illustrates the inherent complexity in helping young people to make the transition from education into work.

One example is the federal city-state of Hamburg, Germany, where different public service providers began collaborating to support young people by providing, for example, guidance on vocational education and training, academic studies, entitlement to benefits, and assistance in overcoming social or educational problems. The successful approach in Hamburg hinges on the collaboration between key stakeholders to identify young people at risk of unemployment and becoming NEETs, and the subsequent early intervention to provide employment or training solutions to prevent a drift into unemployment or inactivity.

Gdansk, Poland, encouraged employer engagement by introducing vouchers for employment, training, internships and settlements (i.e. employment or other gainful economic activities away from the place of residence).

One of the main bottlenecks in tackling youth unemployment is the transition from education to the labour market. The economic crisis in 2008 only intensified the problem and the need to improve this transition is apparent.  There are successful cases, like Tampere, Finland, where regional guidance centres have the power to make client-centred decisions on a wide range of services, which has made the support more personal and therefore more effective.  

In Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, there is a cooperation of the labour administration with the regional education department and municipal offices and the regional social assistance offices. This has been effective in helping unemployed young people and NEETs by creating work experiences in difficult labour market circumstances. According to YUTRENDS dual apprentice systems, strong vocational education systems and other similar solutions could help young people entering the job market for the first time.

The proposal of the European Commission for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training that will aim to make systems more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital and green economy is an important step towards this direction.

An important contribution of the Youth Guarantee scheme was the reduction of young NEETs (young people not in employment, education or training).   According to the European Commission, there were 1.7 million fewer NEETs in the EU in 2019 compared to 2013. But more focus and dedicated measures are needed in this direction, as this group of young people often escapes policy radars.

Efforts should focus on improving the identification of young NEETs, their engagement and support for them. Measures are no different than the ones proposed for youth unemployment but identifying and supporting NEETs requires a clear framework that prioritizes the needs of this group.

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