Young people in the labour market – how to improve their situation?

From 6 to 8 July 2018 a seminar took place in Osijek, Croatia about „Young people in the labour market – how to improve their situation?” organized by HKD Napredak (Hrvatsko kulturno društvo Napredak), with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar was attended by representatives of workers’ organisations from 13 different countries including the host country: Albania, Austria,  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Italy, Lithuania, FYR of Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia.

It is said that the theme “young people on the labour market - how to improve their situation” is a current and burning issue, and it is of interest for companies, governments and for society as a whole to enhance the transition from education to the labour market and to establish dialogue at all levels in order to satisfy everyone to the optimal and to find long-term sustainable solutions for the employment of young people. The topics discussed at the seminar were:

  • labour market and the future challenges for young people,
  • European youth employment policies, which are providing new opportunities for youth employment,
  • The compatibility of government´s employment programs with the needs of the young people,
  •  concepts against youth unemployment,
  •  today's trends and needs of the labour market and the needs of young workers,
  • how to stop the emigration trend of young people from lower developed countries to developed ones especially young people from Southeast Europe.

The participants emphasized that one of the greatest problem of youth unemployment is the long-term unemployment of young people. It causes individual problems - economic (income), social (family relationships), psychological (the effect of discouraged workers) and social problems - decline in employment, growth of fiscal costs (social welfare system, health system), inequality growth, slowdown of potential economic growth. The most vulnerable group of young people is the so-called NEET group (Not in Employment, Education or Training).

During the seminar, many interesting experiences of EU member states, as well as from countries in South East Europe were raised, addressing the problems of youth unemployment. One of the conclusions was that the countries of the European Union such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and others are in a somewhat more favourable situation than the countries of Southeast Europe in terms of youth employment, but in these countries as well as in the countries of Southeast Europe, the problem of fluctuation and emigration of young people is one of the major problems. For example, in Poland, more than 2.5 million young people recently left the country. Most young persons went to Germany and the UK. Moreover, it was confirmed that the unemployment problem is not just a few years old. It is a problem that has been troubling the young population for the past few decades. Young people are the future, but their current precarious situation will not remain just a phase if different stakeholders do not decide to invest in their future. Better quality jobs and better wages are the best way to keep them in their home countries and local environments. It is of interest to companies, governments and society as a whole to enable young people to gain work experience, to enable them to train and master new work skills. The key to young people's success in today's time is to be proactive. Most of the participants agreed that some of the employment policy measures such as training grants, support for those willing to become self-employed can significantly contribute to improving the current situation of young people. It was also said that the most important measures for the young people are those concerning the acquisition of the first work experience or traineeship. It was underlined that one of the problems related to youth unemployment is the problem of inadequate education systems especially in transition countries. There is a mismatch between the needs of the labour market and the educational system. Proposals to address this problem advocated inter alia that young people should be informed about what is waiting for them in the labour market already in primary school as part of basic education. Students should receive support in professional orientation in order to help them to decide what studies or training programme they want to enrol in and which kind of jobs they ultimately would like to do. It was also proposed to improve curricula and programs with more number of hours for practical work. What is definitely missing currently in several education systems is practical work - not just in high schools but also in higher education institutions. Finally, participants agreed that professions which are at the moment not attractive enough and which young people do not want to do, should be promoted by governments through a scholarship system and other incentives, in order to motivate young people for these jobs.

In the end, all the participants of the seminar agreed that the labour market situation for young people is specific in each country and also every labour market is specific. The key term for solving the problem is flexibility - labour market flexibility and more flexible work contracts. In this regard, governments and employers can play a constructive role and trade unions are the ones who need to protect workers' rights. Young people must have a chance to find a job on the job market.