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Partnerships could create more jobs in Europe

Partnerships could create more jobs in Europe

| Text: Gunhild Wallin, Photo: Björn Lindahl

Labour market measures and various types of training are not enough, no matter how good they are. Job creation is the crucial thing and it must happen through cooperation between the public and private sectors and civil society. These were some of the conclusions when labour market experts met at the annual Employment Forum in Brussels.

In a conference room at Brussels’ Crowne Plaza Hotel the audience is watching a picture of beautiful fields and blue mountains. It is obviously somewhere in Sweden and appears to show a timeless idyl. The next picture shows the riots in the Stockholm suburb of Husby in the autumn of 2013. Two totally contrasting pictures from the same country. The idyl changes to burning cars and angry youths. The difference in the two pictures is about youth unemployment.

“Desperate youths do desperate things. We need to prevent creating a lost generation,” says Susanne Tillqvist, a partner at EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young.  

She is one of the speakers at the seminar ‘Together private and public sector map a path to tackle youth unemployment’, one of many posts in the programme at the Employment Forum which is held in Brussels every November, gathering labour market players from across Europe. This year’s theme is the need to initiate and push for change in order to achieve sustainable growth. For two days various aspects of job creation in Europe are being discussed. 

Gloomy starting point

The purpose might be to be creative and to look forward, yet the situation in parts of Europe today is as gloomy as the pouring rain outside the hotel during the conference’s first day. The European youth unemployment figures being presented are alarming. In October 2013 65 percent of Greek under 25s were unemployed, and 65 percent of Spanish youths. One in five under 35s have never had a job. 7.7 million youths between 15 and 24 in EU countries belong to the so-called NEET group; young people who are not in employment, education or training. The high unemployment is not only a problem for those who cannot find work. It also threatens basic values like confidence in the worst hit societies, several of the panel participants pointed out.

Youth unemployment also differs sharply between EU countries, according to recent statistics. In Germany it stands at a low 7.1 percent. So what can be learned from the German example? One explanation is the successful combination of traineeships and education – one of several solutions which were being discussed at the conference. 

New measures and ideas will be born from these facts on the serious nature of unemployment, but also from good examples. There’s a need to be reactive – to get to grips with youth unemployment – and proactive – to avoid bottlenecks and to react quickly to rapid social change. The future must be based on three pillars – creating new jobs, the inclusion of marginalised people and effective matching.

There is a need to cooperate to find new and creative solutions for a future Europe. The conference looked at ways to improve the journey from education to working life, how skills can be matched with jobs and how to come up with new ideas for the cooperation between the private and public sectors and civil society. 

Change is the only constant, says Massimilano Mascherini, head of research at Eurofond and the main author of ‘NEET:s young people Not in Employment, Education and Training – Characteristics, Costs and Policy Responses’. In the face of constant change, training and measures are not enough.

“We can be as effective with our measures as we want, but it is not enough if there are no jobs. 

"The most important thing is to create jobs,” he says.

Social responsibility 

So what kind of public-private partnerships will open up the labour market for the long-term unemployed? One example from Sweden is presented at the workshop headed by Susanne Tillqvist from EY. She has been working with workplace issues for six years, allowing her to get involved with various programmes and projects. 

One such project, which was also presented during the conference, is ‘National Clients’ which is run by Sweden’s Public Employment Service. It offers major companies which operates nationally the chance to have one central contact at the employment service rather than having to relate to each individual, local employment office. One aims is to improve the matching between the company’s recruitment needs with skilled unemployed people anywhere in Sweden, while also having access to the employment service’s resources.

Today the employment service has 47 national clients comprising major companies and organisations. Around half of them, including Swedbank, Clas Ohlson, H&M, ICA, Swedavia and The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, are also interested in opening their business to youths who are far outside of the labour market – foreign-born youths, people with reduced mobility or people with the right skills who live in the wrong place. Mentored traineeships help the trainee understand the business while it gets access to the employment service’s various tools and subsidies in return. This might include validation, traineeships, further education, help to move and more. 13,000 traineeships have been approved for 2013 and 2014.

“We create tailor-made solutions for each youth together with the company, and this is important. The youths need individualised measures. They get to experience being in a workplace while the employer doesn’t have to take any risks,” says Soledad Grafeuille, who is responsible for the project at the employment service. 

She says around half of the traineeships have resulted in real jobs, and that it has been of great importance for youths or other job seekers and the employers to be able to meet and learn to know each other. 

“One of our challenges is to move the focus from the public to the private sector, because it is in cooperation with with private companies that we really get to use our ‘toolbox’. For the companies this means they can get help to reach their diversity goals while also working with their social responsibility. Our responsibility is to learn to know the companies and to keep our promises,” she says. 

A ‘win-win’ situation

It is, of course, down to each individual company to engage in this type of measure, to decide how big a responsibility they are willing to take or have the opportunity to take in order to help young people into work, says Susanne Tillqvist from EY, who has been surveying the companies’ attitude to the cooperation. 

“But it is our world, our planet and our children. Many have their own children, which increases their willingness to commit” she says.

The help companies get from the employment service’s tool box makes it possible to invest in helping young people into the labour market. At the same time they get help to find the right skills. This benefits the company and it benefits society. She also notices a general increase in companies’ interest in taking social responsibility, a desire to contribute to society. Her own company, EY, has done a lot of work to map how to do just that using the skills available in house. Today that is being exemplified in their work in the much talked about Malmö suburb of Rosengård, at the Tensta/Rinkebyakademin where they help develop entrepreneurs and business plans.

“One important parameter is to explain to the companies what they can contribute with, but at the end of the day it is all about what kind of values a company wants to pursue,” says Susanne Tillqvist. 

Granddad’s pension saves the family

While we speak, exhibitions are held, people meet, one workshop finishes and another begins. The air is thick with conversation. Global job centres? Or specialised job centres for specialised needs – in particular for those who are far outside of the labour market? And what will the European youth guarantee achieve? It was agreed upon in December 2012 after a quick process – “unusually quick for the EU,” some will say – and it has been awarded six billion Euro to be implemented on a national scale. So despite all, there appears to be some hope out there that jobs can be created, that companies will enter into more job creating cooperations, that social companies and innovation represent other and new ways of reducing unemployment and creating growth.

Yet far from everyone is optimistic. In a cafe outside the conference’s main meeting room we meet Pilar Rodriges. When she hears we are from Norway and Sweden she almost dismisses us. What do we know, a couple of privileged people lucky enough to live in a region which has managed so much better than many other European countries?

“In Spain today it is not unusual that the entire family lives off granddad’s pension,” she says. 

There’s no doubt the good intentions must be realised urgently.

Susanne Tillqvist

from EY has been working with the 'National Clients' scheme, offering major national companies a single contact at the employment service (picture above).


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