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Innovation – a must for inclusion

| By Berit Kvam

The economy is improving across Europe, giving hope to Europe’s young. But it is not enough: To include young people in work and education, change is needed. The Nordic Labour Journal illustrates how fresh knowledge combined with structural changes can give vulnerable youths the chance to blossom and young entrepreneurs possibilities to grow.

When Ylva Johansson addressed the Swedish media on 31 January, the good news was that newly arrived citizens now mange to enter the Swedish labour market faster than before. According to the most optimistic estimates, that time could be halved in the coming years, if things carry on as now.

This is much due to the Dua initiative, based on fresh ideas for what is needed for a successful inclusion of vulnerable youths into the labour market. The basic principle has been to make changes to established structures in order to create long-term cooperation between municipalities and the Swedish Employment Service on a local level. 

Norway’s new government announced very early on that it wanted to pave the way for a dugnad for integration. Dugnad is a word which resonates with the Norwegian national soul. It stems from the Viking era and means getting together for a voluntary effort which benefits the community. When a dugnad is called, everyone contributes to the best of their abilities. And no-one has publicly declined the government’s call to action. There is perhaps just one uncertainty – are there enough workspaces for everyone?

Our opinion piece writer has also put another dilemma on the agenda. After many years of research in this field, he believes there are many reasons for why young people become outsiders: “They have more than holes in their CVs. They have holes in their very lives. And at school they learned this: You are not good enough. As a result, they no longer believe they are […] Vulnerable youths, who lack experience in mastering things and who do not have safe people who care for them, do not always possess enough motivation to overcome the obstacles in life.”

What is needed then, is comprehensive structural changes, long-term thinking and better links between schools and the labour market. Denmark is often held up as an example. Danish vocational schools focus more on in-work learning and a closer relationship between schools and work, compared to for instance Norway. Yet they still struggle to help pupils overcome obstacles and throw themselves into an unknown world in order to gain valuable practical experience from a foreign country.

Finland has spent the past two years trying out a system involving private investment funds, Social Impact Bonds, to further social development and include more people into the labour market. The fund is now the largest of its kind in Europe. So far results have been moderate: 150 people have found jobs via the fund, while the aim is 2,500 by 2022. Yet the Epiqus company remains optimistic and is expanding the programme.

Many young people find their own ways into working life. Start-ups like No Isolation and Blueye Robotics represent companies which create jobs and come up with innovative solutions to today’s challenges; like social isolation and polluted oceans.  

Will there be jobs for everyone? It is impossible to foresee. Young people’s engagement and desire to innovate go a long way. But those who need help to get into the labour market depend on measures that actually work. Research from the EU and Norway shows it is necessary to assess the quality of the jobs and measures which are being offered to young people. If not, their job applications risk ending up at the bottom of the pile.


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