More than 100 representatives from Youth Organizations and National Youth Councils met about the same number of governmental and institutional delegates and discussed together how the dramatic situation of youth un-employment in Europe can be tackled in order to improve life conditions for the young people.
Among the youth representatives were several Guides and Scouts, WOSM European Region was represented by Falko Mohrs.
The discussions took place in the frame of the Structured Dialogue in which the Belgian Presidency organised an EU Youth Conference in Leuven from the 2 to 4 October 2010. This was the second Youth Conference in a series of three at European level. The outcome was a set of recommendations of how member states, the EU and youth organisations and other relevant stakeholders can fight youth unemployment.
The youth unemployment rate in Europe was above 20% in September 2010. “Young people are hit the hardest by the devastating consequences of the crisis – for example youth unemployment rates in some Member States are up to four times higher for young people compared to other age groups – reaching more than 40% in some countries” explains Mohrs.
Besides the high rate of unemployed young people, an even larger number who have a job are suffering under precarious conditions, are paid at very low levels, hold only limited contracts and find it necessary to have more than one job in order to survive. Therefore the need for improved control mechanisms that prevent violation of labour rights and training programmes in schools which assure that young people are aware of these rights was one of the recommendations made by the participants. Once again it was obvious, that a “rights-based” approach is needed in order to ensure that young people’s needs are met, a process that Scouts in Europe have been asking for years and where they are highly involved.
Previous to the Youth Conferences, the Member States set up national working groups to consult young people and Youth Organisations at local, regional and national level. The results of the national consultations were brought together at the EU Youth Conferences, organised in turn by the three Presidencies, and the next steps in the process are prepared. The EU youth conference in Leuven built upon the process and the results previously achieved under the Spanish Presidency. During the Spanish EU Youth Conference, youth delegates and political representatives defined priorities on youth employment. Before the EU Youth Conference in Leuven a new round of national consultations in the 27 EU Member States was organised to identify concrete recommendations on youth employment. The results of the 24 national consultations were the starting point in Leuven.
During the conference, youth representatives and governmental as well as institutional delegates developed, in eight working groups, a set of recommendations. These eight groups were:
An important aspect in the discussion was the cooperation between the educational, private sector and the employment agencies to ensure that, for example, curricula, programmes and activities reflect current labour market trends.
Furthermore, the importance of non-formal education was widely discussed in the different workshops and it was highlighted that formal and non-formal education have to be seen as complementary and that youth organisations, as the main providers, need more sustainable and reliable (financial) support for their work. The recognition of skills gained through non-formal education are still lagging behind and need to be improved. Examples were the use of non-formal education in order to achieve “soft skills” or entrepreneurial capacities. As many young people are active on a volunteer basis, a legal framework, for volunteers and voluntary service providers, applicable in all EU Member States, that includes social security, health insurance, duties, rights and responsibilities, is needed in order to improve the conditions of young people that are engaged in this field.
In the outcome document, youth representatives demanded a broad and active participation of young people in the social dialogue which can be achieved through comprehensive education and empowerment, awareness raising programmes and campaigns. Furthermore they stresses the need for an improved legal framework that ensures equal access of young people to formal democratic processes for example by lowering the voting age for all elections.
Building on the second EU youth conference, the new approach of having a series of youth conferences that build on the outcome of the previous ones seems to be helpful in order to improve the follow-up of the events. Now it is up to the governments of the member states and other stakeholders in the EU to proof that young people’s needs and their recommendations are taken seriously and lead to an improved political framework and better working conditions for young people.