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Fresh thinking is crucial

| By Björn Lindahl, acting chief editor

At the Employment Forum in Brussels, a labour life conference with participants from across Europe, one message was repeated over and over: no matter how much you give unemployed people training, nothing happens unless you create jobs. But how? Fresh thinking is crucial.

One way forward is to invest in social enterprises and people who want to achieve something more than making money. People who want to create workplaces which provide opportunities for those who are normally outside of the labour market; those with psychological problems, immigrants or NEETs. 

It could be immigrant women who are allowed to use their knitting skills, like in the Danish project, or it could be fixing broken bikes and selling them on, like at Karocikel in Slovenia — which also provides important workplace training.

Nobody says it’s easy. In Finland the project Mood for Work has looked into how employers can get the support they need to get marginalised groups into work.

Swedish ‘National Clients’, run by Sweden’s employment service, does similar things — providing major companies like Swedbank, Clas Ohlson and H&M with a contact centrally within the employment service, rather than asking them to relate to their individual local job centres.

One aim is to improve the matching between a company’s recruitment needs and existing skills across the country. With support from the employment service and all its resources, companies can also open their doors to youths who are far outside of the labour market,.

There are good ideas in all countries, regardless of their economic situation. Inspiration might come from small, new EU members like Slovenia.

“Karocikel was the most inspiring thing we saw,” the Swedish representatives from Klara Livet, a project in Blekinge in Sweden, told the Nordic Labour Journal during a lunch break.

The relationship between big and small is also being highlighted in the fisheries conflict over herring and mackerel, where the EU and Norway are boycotting the Faroe Islands. The autonomous area led by Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannesen is banned from landing these species in EU ports and from selling processed products based on herring and mackerel. 

But the boycott has led to increased employment in the Faroe Islands because the fish is treated there instead. And as Kaj Leo Johannesen says, not without a bit of glee: there are African countries with better purchasing power than EU countries right now.


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