President of the ETUC Youth Committee

Youth unemployment is still sky-rocketing and in some European countries there is talk of a lost generation. At the beginning of 2016 the youth unemployment rate stood at 20,0%, a figure which conceals truly alarming figures for some Member States. ETUC Youth, the European Youth Trade Union Federations and all national youth Trade Unions throughout Europe have been urgently demanding repeatedly recovery and employment plans for investing in quality jobs for young people.

There are clearly many other factors influencing economic development and employment, but there is some consensus that mobility can have a role. Young people should be given the opportunity to study and work abroad under scholarships and other schemes to experience mobility from an early age. Mobility is seen as improving young people’s employability by helping them acquire key skills and competences, such as communication in a foreign language, intercultural understanding, social and civic participation, problem-solving skills and creativity in general. The European Commission has launched different tools as the European Alliance for apprenticeships, the Erasmus+ program and your first EURES job to attain this goals, but the figures show it’s still a long way ahead.
By improving Europe’s youth employability, mobility supports and eases the transition of young people from school to the world of work. To reach this goal education qualifications should be recognized all over Europe. For academic qualifications, this issue has been addressed by the Bologna process. There is however no equivalent when it comes to vocational qualifications. This means that young people cannot start a course in one country and then finish it in another, and so prevents them from gaining the valuable cross-cultural experiences that many academic students enjoy. Developing a European vocabulary for vocational qualifications could foster mobility and substantially improve job opportunities for vocational workers. What is needed is a renewed democratization in the chapter of mobility for students and vocational workers. All social groups should be included in this not just the affluent backgrounds and academics.
This apprenticeships and traineeships offer a tried and tested way of helping young people into work. Trade unions, along with employers’ organizations, have to be closely involved, at different levels, in the governance of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and apprenticeship systems. This trade union involvement covers a variety of different activities. In order to assure the quality of apprenticeships ETUC gave 21 recommendations towards a European quality framework for apprenticeships and work-based learning with best practices from the trade union movement1.
However in the background of the crisis mobility is too often a forced mobility. This ‘Brain Drain’ and economic emigration is not a positive choice and has negative implications for countries with very high youth unemployment rates. For this reason it is very important that mobility is voluntarily and does not result out of necessity in countries with struggling economic situations. Current austerity policies are forcing young people to leave their own country and work abroad often in precarious conditions. In any case, policy-makers are responsible for generating a situation of a free choice. This can be achieved by improving the job market through smart macro-economic decisions. The problem of unemployment is rather the massive lack of quality jobs for Europe’s youth.

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