Tuesday, September 23, 2014


 President Bozo Mikus of the trade union SING opened the seminar;
Recently (18 and 19 september 2014) WOW (World Organization of Workers) and the Danish trade union confederation KRIFA organized near Zagreb, the capital of the youngest member of the EU, a European seminar with the support of EZA (Europäisches Zentrum Arbeitnehmerfragen) and the European Commission. 52 Participants from 26 trade unions coming from 17 European countries exchanged ideas, thoughts and experiences with experts, scholars and trade union leaders on “Trade Unions and Youth Unemployment: is education the only answer?”

Mr. Matthias Homey of EZA was one of the first speakers of the seminar. He spoke about "What is the situation in Europe- which initiative are the EU countries taking to solve the problem with Youth Unemployment?/Europe 2020 strategy and the situation of young people on the labour market" (research IHS/EZA). Meanwhile Solveig Baekgaard Maksten (KRIFA) tried to solve a computer problem while sitting on the ground next to the speaker.

Youth unemployment is not new in Europe but since the financial and economic crisis it has got dramatic dimensions. The data of the European Commission show how dramatic.
  • Youth unemployment rate is more than twice as high as the adult one – 23.3 % against 9.3 % in the fourth quarter of 2012.
  • The chances for a young unemployed person of finding a job are low – only 29.7 % of those aged 15-24 and unemployed in 2010 found a job in 2011.
  • When young people do work, their jobs tend to be less stable – in 2012, 42.0 % of young employees were working on a temporary contract (four times as much as adults) and 32.0 % part-time (nearly twice the adults’ rate).
  • Early leavers from education and training are a high-risk group – 55.5% of them are not employed and within this group about 70% want to work.
  • Resignation is an increasing concern – 12.6 % of inactive youth wanted to work but were not searching for employment in the third quarter of 2012.
  • In 2011, 12.9% of young people were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs).
  • There are significant skills mismatches on Europe's labour market.
  • Despite the crisis, there are over 2 million unfilled vacancies in the EU.
At personal level the consequences for the young unemployed are also very dramatic: uncertainty, reduced self-confidence, no own family can build up resulting in postponement of getting children (with eventually demographic consequences), loss of knowledge due to lack of experience and less confidence in society and politics, which can lead to marginalization.

Irena Baselic of the Ministry of Labour and Pension System needed some assistance from WOW board member Wolfgang Pischinger and Solveig Baekgaard Maksten to solve some small technical problems before starting her speech on "Youth employment from the perspective of a local job centre-practical approaches and experiences."

The actual situation in the European Union is slightly better but still far away of being good. In July this year more than 5 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU. Compared with July 2013, youth unemployment decreased by more than a half million.

In July 2014, the youth unemployment rate was 21.7% compared with 23.6% in July 2013. This is the lowest rate since September 2011.

In July 2014, the lowest rates were observed in Germany (7.8%), Austria (9.3%) and the Netherlands (10.4%), and the highest in Spain (53.8%), Greece (53.1%), Italy (42.9%) and Croatia (41.5% in the second quarter 2014).

Two students in Dutch apprenticeship.

Why these big differences in youth unemployment rates between European countries? Research shows that more education and training significantly increase the chance to get a job. The dual education system of on the job training and education at the same time is an effective way to increase the chance to get a job for young people , as is showed by the German and Dutch cases. But experts warn that it takes a lot of time to develop such a dual education system because it needs well coordinated actions between many different institutions of the State, the Employers, the Trade Unions and other Non Governmental Organizations. In Germany and the Netherlands these institutions have been build up during a long time.

Tycho Filarski, president of the Working Group International of CNV Youth spoke about "How does CNV Youth promote the position of young workers in the Netherlands?"
What can trade unions do to attack the problem of youth unemployment and unemployment in general? Should they stick to the classic trade union position to defend and promote the rights of their members that are mainly working people, or should they be actively involved in the battle against unemployment? Should trade unions only play the blame game towards the government, the employers and the political parties, or must trade unions cooperate on different levels for solutions?

Trade unions should not only defend the rights of the working people but start activities to solve the problem of youth unemployment.
The participants agreed that trade unions must be involved in the battle against youth unemployment (and also unemployment in general), which in the long run affects society as a whole. Value oriented trade unions like those of WOW can never accept the marginalization of so many young people and workers from the labour market and the society.

Milica Jovanovic, legal adviser of the Croatian Employers' Association of Croatia, spoke about "The responsibility of the employers."

Trade unions must first of all start to listen to young unemployed people outside the trade union office and visit them. Trade unions must develop social media instruments like websites, blogs and so on, as new ways to communicate directly with the unemployed young people. Trade unions must help the young unemployed to orient themselves in the areas of training, education and labor market opportunities. Trade unions must pressure employers and governments to work on a system of better matching between education and labor market. Trade unions must do everything to maintain intergenerational solidarity, young and older unemployed should cooperate for solutions.

An absolute priority are investments in jobs, in the private and the public sector. Trade unions must give attention to all possibilities to create new jobs by investments in all sectors of the economy.

Rolf Weber of KRIFA dept. for international relations and one of the organizers of the seminar working outside the seminar room.

Trade unions must give special attention to those young unemployed who want to start as self-employed. Trade unions must support them to find new ways for them to participate in health insurance in pension schemes etc.
As a general comment, the seminar participants agreed that trade unions must change from being a kind of emergency centers for workers into all-round fitness centers for employed and unemployed, for part time workers, for self employed and so on.

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