The reality of life and challenges facing young Europeans today

From 13 to 17 June 2019 took place in Brussel, Belgium, a seminar about “The reality of life and challenges facing young Europeans today”, organized by JOC Europe (Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne - Europe), with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar was part of the EZA project co-ordination about “Youth employment”. 25 young representatives of workers’ organizations from Belgium, Germany and Spain participated in the seminar.

The most important aspect of the seminar was the aspect that the exchange of personal reality, the exchange of practice and strategy of collective action and the motivation to discover what the other movements of the YCW live and do. This provoked a motivation to act individually and collectively in the participants, in their living environment, at work but also collectively at the European level in connection with the trade union movement.

The seminar was very important for young people because it allowed them to see that they were not alone in experiencing difficulties in finding a job. They were especially given an overview of how this is taking place in other countries and some suggestions on how to act together to change their position when they return to their country.

The society needs to be changed, because there are the national governments and European institutions that make all the rules and that was important to see now, so that we can try to change it in Germany, Belgium and Spain. We need more harmony and convergent in Europe, especially at a time when the labour market is changing rapidly in Europe, especially for young people and women.

Our plan was to have participants from Ireland, Ukraine and Austria. At the end, it was not possible for them to participate and we received short-term cancellations of their participation.

The following topic fields were discussed:

-the reality of the increase of precarious work in Europe and the different context in different countries

-the consequences in the lives of young people of this situation, fear of the future, impossibility of this project in the long term, to obtain an apartment, to have a project of life which corresponds to their values

-the mini jobs in Germany

-the new Belgian framework organizing the precariousness of work in Belgium in the sector such as platform economy, catering and non-commercial, with the multiplication of the status of “auto-entrepreneur”, without social contribution but without right to many aspects of social Security.

-the extremely high rate of temporary work among young people in Spain.

-the need for young people and the labor movement to develop new forms of action and collective strategy in order to be able to act and have an impact at European level

The following speeches were very inspiring:

-Leizel Salem: She talked about the declaration of principal of the YCW and the methodology. We will always start from the young workers reality. And young workers want a dignified life and that means living in a society of solidarity, equality, freedom, love and justice. That it is our mission, raise awareness, reaching out other young workers and other people to create a new and improved society. And all this we do with the See-Judge-Act methodology. For example: We See by doing a social investigation, gathering info and testimonies. We judge by confronting our reality’s and searching for our values and by self-criticism. We act on a short term and on a long term bases.

-Antoine Roisin : Antoine talked about identifying the tendencies regarding the evolution of the labour market in Europe. He began with a summarize of the story’s young people told: Low salary, gender inequalities, flexibility, lack of respect from the employer, unpaid internships, temporary work that is on the rise. And the social security that is weakening.

Comparison of individual and common experiences and realities with Eurostats figures and statistics in order to be able to identify the common trends between the different countries and the particular context of each country.

Presentation of the social movements of scale in Europe of their successes, limits and challenges (Yellow Gillets in France / Belgium, Strike of women in Spain, Youth for the climate in Germany / Belgium)

Mateusz Szymanski: General trends in the labour market in Europe, the role and the need for the trade union movement to act and to have demands at European level to bring together the different realities of the countries through common demands, such as the proposal of minimum wage at European level.

Seminar results

Exchange about our personal working conditions in little groups. Here we heard that there were similar and difference between the experiences of young workers, like if you live in a city and you don’t have a fulltime job it is difficult to rent or buy an apartment on your own. Temporary work comes in different shapes and models. Many don’t have unlimited contracts and it takes a long time to have them. When you have a diploma it doesn’t mean that you have a good job after. There is also the gender topic that was a discussion point. There is still no equal pay for men and women if they do the same job

We collectively made a SPEC analysis of the reality of young people in Europe.

Social: paradigm of neoliberalism: economic model, way of thinking. Individualization:

system designed with the objective of dismantling the collective. Weakening of the unions.

Politics: Labour markets are increasingly deregulated. Right-wing governments promote flexibility and self-employment.

Economy: competition between young people to obtain and keep a job. Pressure on worthy businesses, dominated by the financial markets. More temporary contract (day, week, month), financial instability, low wages, inability to lead a decent life. More jobseekers than job opportunities for less educated people and in specific sectors.

Cultural: disbelief in the face of a fundamental change towards an alternative to capitalism.

Lack of awareness and knowledge (rights, regulations). 3 axes of domination: racism, patriarchy, class. Individualistic culture.

The last day we discussed that the government has a big role in all our lives and in the society. So that is something we need to see and try to change. Because the mindset that people have in Europe is influenced by the governments in all Europe. So we need to be more united than ever.

National movements of Europe get to know each other:

Gathering, exchanges in Europe (enable feedback):

see what we are

regular meetings (phone/physical)

International exchange in Belgium/Germany: 6-8 September: gender equality, migration and


Visit each other's actions.

Communication: Facebook, Social media pages: 1 (Facebook/newsletter), (exchange of actions),

(Instagram etc., visualize)

Make our results visible for the society

Develop a common action:

Having a big action, eg. big block in demonstration European.

Working together on common actions (In Belgium on the baggage handlers of the airport, in

Germany and Belgium on Sunday work.)

Common publication in Europe: focus on topics, countries.

social inquiry developed in each European country on precariousness for digitization, platform


Develop our network:

Contact with Ireland, Austria: work together.

Collaborate with youth branches of trade unions.

EZA youth conference 19-21 September, Sofia

We want to change the politics, the mindset of the people need to change.

The limited contracts need to end. Young people want unlimited contract because they want to plan the future.

A worthy (or decent) job and wage

We want better working conditions and human employers.

We want a fair and equal society. And a more social EU.

Participants want to create more awareness at different levels: Friends, family, work, organization. They leave motivated and with perspectives action to reinforce the movement and the message and continue to fight for their rights.