Investing in Youth: what can the society gain from a well-educated and trained workforce?

Global youth unemployment continues to soar and informal employment leaves young people vulnerable in many developing and developed countries, preventing them from realizing their full economic potential and personal fulfilment.

Youth, especially young women, continue to be disproportionately affected by unemployment. Almost 74 million young people (aged 15–24) were looking for work in 2014. The youth unemployment rate is practically three times higher than is the case for their adult counterparts. The heightened youth unemployment situation is common to all regions.

These trends persist despite considerable improvements in average educational attainment of youth cohorts. While the share of young people in the labour force with tertiary education has increased since 2007 in 26 out of 30 countries for which data are available, unemployment rates among this group have also risen since the onset of the crisis in 16 out of 18 countries. Many countries are projected to see a substantial increase in youth unemployment, in particular those in which youth unemployment rates are currently below the global average. The situation in the European Union is also serious: more than 5 million young people aged 15-24 (21.9%) are unemployed and more than 7.5 million are neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET).

Labour markets have been changing everywhere. Fixed-term contracts, part time, teleworking, temporary agency work and self-employment have become the features of the labour market in countries where open-ended employment contracts used to be the norm. In many developed and emerging countries, workplaces are changing through digitalization. Employment relationships increasingly involve different employers. Young people who try to enter the labour market face the challenge of globalization, the pressure of competition and increased expectations of employers.

This side-event aims to show that addressing these issues with a variety of tools (e.g. TVET, “youth guarantees”, new forms of youth employment) is to the benefit of the whole society and economy, not only young people. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), which launched a “call for action” on youth employment in 2012, policy responses to these challenges remain timid and there would be merit in addressing this severe labour market urgently. The EU is working to achieve a 75% employment rate for the working-age population and in this context the President of the EU-Commission has just proposed a new package to combat youth unemployment by strengthening competitiveness, stimulating investments and creating jobs. “Youth Guarantees” which were launched in the beginning of 2014, aim at providing young people under 25 years of age with a quality job offer, an apprenticeship or training within 4 months after leaving school.

In the panel discussion, the different situations in three European countries are analyzed and different national responses and the common European approach discussed. What elements are needed to bring all young people into employment, education or training after they leave school? What are the main challenges, barriers and bottlenecks and which lessons might be drawn for global youth employment policy?

Moderator: Mr. Stephen Pursey, Director, Department for Multilateral Cooperation, ILO

Mr. Radosław Mleczko, Vice-Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Poland
Ambassador Harald Braun, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations
Mr. Bernard Bedas, Director for European and International Affairs, Ministries for Social Affairs, Health, Labour and Employment
Mr. Reiner Hoffmann, Head of the German Confederation of Trade Unions, DGB

Country Experience:

In Germany, the Dual Apprenticeship System combines theoretical education in vocational universities with practical training in the firms. Governments and social partners are committed to ensuring that there is a pool of highly qualified skilled labour available in the market and organize the apprenticeship system concertedly (by offering about 600.000 new contracts per year), whilst businesses often retain the young professionals they have trained. The "National Pact to Promote Training and Young Skilled Workers" between the Federal Government, the Confederation of Trade Unions and business associations help to ensure that every pupil leaving school gets an offer for an apprenticeship contract, a place in a school or a job.

In France, in order to fight against poverty and to strengthen economic growth, there are several new experiences which were launched by the Government since 2013. Among them, “la Garantie Jeunes” (Young Guarantee which is in the same spirit than the European Commission recommendation but in an experimental way directly for young people) provides intensive support for the most marginalized young people between 18-25 to help them to keep their jobs. This is done through a one year agreement contract between a young person and the local administration that includes professional and basic learning and social behavior training; The Young Guarantee is intended to support the autonomy and professional integration of young people aged 18-25 in precarious situations.

There are more than 420.000 new apprenticeship contracts per year in France of which half are in artisanal businesses. To support employment among vulnerable young people, a new school for entrepreneurship was launched last year. There are also new contracts, “emplois d’avenir” (jobs of the future or opportunity jobs) especially for undergraduates and young people without secondary education. Since the new bill was adopted in 2013, more than 150.000 contracts have been created with support of government funding.

In Poland, actions supporting young people in entering the labour market are amongst the priorities of the Government. In May 2014 the amendment to the Act on promotion of employment and labour market institutions entered into force in Poland. The Act implements the main ideas of the Youth Guarantee and introduces a number of new tools addressed to young people. Other programmes, such as “First business – Support for the start-up”, focus on supporting entrepreneurship of young people. There are also actions concerning the amendment of the labour code.