Chapter 6: The job market for youth
in the EU |
112. As discussed in Chapter 2 (paragraphs 27-32),
the evidence we received suggested that, in some Member States,
the youth unemployment crisis is in part a result of structural
issues on the 'demand side'. Therefore, this Chapter considers
the extent to which changes in the job market can help address
113. We heard from witnesses that, as well as
a high youth unemployment rate, there was concern about getting
people into quality, sustainable jobs. They observed that throughout
the EU it had become difficult to find a secure job, with young
people moving between paid and unpaid work.
Professor Simms said that "overall, governments' policies
have tended to focus on getting people into work, no matter the
quality of the jobs available".
She said that problematic early experiences of precarious work
could lead to young people becoming disengaged at an early stage
in their working lives and lead to reduced opportunities later
on. The structure
of the labour market in many EU Member States meant that the "last
in, first out" rule applied and this typically affected young
people who had just joined the workforce.
114. The TUC said that it had conducted research
in the UK which showed that the proportion of young people in
low-paid jobs in 2011 was substantially higher than in 1993. Perhaps
the most controversial manifestation of this had been so-called
'zero hours contracts'. These were contracts whereby the employer
was not obliged to provide the employee with any minimum working
hours and the employee was not obliged to accept any of the hours
The British Chambers of Commerce and the Centre for European
Studies said that flexible contracts (such as zero hours contracts)
provided a solution for employers and made it easier for young
people to access the job market.
However, the TUC and youth representatives suggested that, while
zero hours contracts could provide solutions to those accessing
the market with experience and strengths behind them, they often
presented a barrier to young people from accessing a sustainable
and secure job. They said that the value and acceptability of
flexible contracts was strongly related to the power balance between
the employer and the individual.
The ETUC said that the "flexibilisation" of the labour
market in Spain through the introduction of new types of labour
contracts had not attracted or retained young workers.
115. We consider that greater flexibility
in the labour market, such as zero-hours contracts, can provide
opportunities for young people to gain work experience and help
to reduce high levels of youth unemployment. Concerns about the
exploitation of workers and unfair working practices should be
mitigated by the proper implementation of existing EU and national
legislation to protect workers' rights, such as minimum wage levels.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
116. We received a considerable amount of evidence
from witnesses about the importance of apprenticeships and training
in tackling youth unemployment. One of the European Commission's
key actions in this area is explained below in Box 7.
EU proposals on traineeships and apprenticeships
|The European Commission's proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Quality Framework for Traineeships forms part of the Youth Employment Package (see Chapter 3, Box 4). The European Commission issued the proposal in response to the results of a Eurobarometer survey which showed that one in three traineeships in the EU were substandard in terms of working conditions or learning content.
The Recommendation sets out a number of guidelines for Member States, in order to increase transparency with regard to traineeship conditions. For example, it requires that traineeships be based on a written traineeship agreement. The Recommendation requires that the agreement should cover learning content (educational objectives, supervision) and working conditions (limited duration, working time, clear indication of whether trainees would be paid or otherwise compensated and whether they would qualify for social security). Traineeship providers would be asked to disclose whether the traineeship would be paid in the vacancy notice. The proposed Framework does not cover traineeships that form part of a university degree or that are mandatory to access a specific profession.
The European Alliance for Apprenticeships aims to bring together public authorities, businesses, social partners, providers of vocational education and training, youth representatives and other key actors in order to promote apprenticeship schemes and initiatives across Europe. A number of UK businesses and civil society organisations have joined the alliance.
117. Witnesses were generally supportive of the
promotion of apprenticeships and traineeships at EU level. Some
said that across the EUand in the UK in particularthere
needed to be a cultural shift in appreciation of vocational versus
Barclays said that the motivation for its new apprenticeship scheme
was that previously, university graduates were being recruited
to fill roles which did not meet their aspirations and were leaving
early. The company decided to create a separate entry point for
young people to fill the roles that were unsuitable for graduates,
thereby relieving the downward pressure on non-graduates.
McDonald's said that it operated its apprenticeship scheme partly
because "it is incumbent on the big companies to help those
young people get the skills and confidence to get the jobs that
are out there".
118. Some witnesses raised concerns about the
"loose vocabulary" being used to define apprenticeships
and the resulting doubts about quality that this caused for employers
and job seekers alike.
Professor Robin Simmons, Professor of Education, University
of Huddersfield, said that "calling a six-month programme
in a retail outlet an apprenticeship is extremely different to
a robust three-year programme with high-level qualifications,
let us say within Rolls-Royce or British Aerospace".
Professor Sloman and the European Commission cautioned against
viewing the creation of apprenticeships as a solution to youth
unemployment and expressed concern about young people being caught
on a "conveyor belt"
of one traineeship after another.
The ETUC noted that the quality and quantity of apprenticeship
schemes varied between Member States due to their different industrial
fabrics and social partnership models. For that reason, it said
that the European Commission's recent efforts in this area, in
particular the Recommendation for a Quality Framework for Traineeships,
were among "the most important milestones of the past eight
years when it comes to youth unemployment".
The ETUC said that the EU needed a common definition of apprenticeships
and recommended using the definition provided by CEDEFOP.
It was disappointed with the non-legally binding nature of the
European Commission's Recommendation and said that this would
not be effective in raising quality.
119. Business Europe acknowledged the success
of the Austrian and German apprenticeship model, but said that
"it is up to every other country to take things out of there
and apply it to their own situation".
It did not feel that the EU should be setting minimum standards
or guidelines on apprenticeships, which it felt was best left
to Member States. Marks and Spencer said it did not get formal
accreditation for its apprenticeship schemes in the UK, but believed
it was not forgoing anything by not doing so because the training
the company provided suited its business needs, as most of the
individuals went on to become full-time employees in the company.
120. Crossrail said it was trying to use its
position as a large procurer of materials and services to address
youth unemployment by attaching conditions to its procurement
contracts over a certain value, requiring successful bidders to
employ an unemployed person or an apprentice when carrying out
the contract. Its Chairman, Terry Morgan, said that this business-led
approach was far more effective than the Government imposing the
Prospects said that, while employers had an important part to
play, moves to shift the cost of apprenticeship provision from
government to business could have a detrimental effect on the
quantity and availability of opportunities and on the outcomes
121. The UK Government said they believed that
the European Commission's attempts to promote apprenticeships
and to ensure their quality did not respect Member States' competence
in the area of education and training and that a "looser
approach" would work just as well. By way of example, the
Government highlighted that the 2012 Richard review of apprenticeships
in England was informed by experiences in the Netherlands, Switzerland,
Denmark and Germany. The Government said that the distinction
in the European Commission's Recommendation between an apprenticeship
and a traineeship did not easily translate into the UK context
and that adopting the Recommendation could create administrative
burdens for employers and Government alike.
122. The UK Government said that LEPs and other
local level actors had an important role to play in creating job
opportunities for young people, including apprenticeships. At
the same time, however, it was also essential to have a core national
framework in place that could support employers, wherever they
were, to offer apprenticeships.
123. We conclude that the development of a
variety of career pathways, including apprenticeships, traineeships
and internships, is important in reducing youth unemployment in
Europe. However, we are concerned about the proliferation of schemes
being identified as apprenticeships but whose quality and applicability
to the labour market is questionable. We believe that it is important
to ensure that internships enable young people to access the labour
market, and are not offered as a substitute for employment. We
therefore endorse the European Commission's attempts to create
a common understanding of what constitutes either an apprenticeship
or traineeship in the EU. We recommend that, as much as possible,
the UK Government should develop their future policies in this
area in line with EU definitions.
124. The free movement of workers is one of the
four fundamental freedoms of the EU, along with the free movement
of capital, goods and services.
We wanted to explore the extent to which the EU and its Member
States view mobility within the EU labour market as a solution
to youth unemployment and whether policy makers should be taking
into account the positive and negative socio-economic consequences
of youth migration in the context of youth unemployment.
125. Youth unemployment is an emotive issue in
many Member States and so is the youth migration that can be associated
with it. Referring to the current high levels of youth emigration
from Ireland, Emer Costello MEP said that "the scale of emigration
is having, and will continue to have, a major impact on Ireland
and on the Irish economy. We are losing some of our brightest
126. Some witnesses said that the migration of
young people in search of employment is helpful. The British Chambers
of Commerce said that mobility was helpful to the European labour
market in general, "and we are doing a disservice to our
young people if they are not able to access jobs in other countries
when jobs are not available here".
The European Commission and the UK Government said that where
there was high demand for labour, which could not be filled locally,
encouraging migration could be helpful.
127. Other witnesses said that the benefits of
youth migration might be limited. Business Europe said that while
mobility could help address the skills and labour demand mismatches
in Europe, it was "not a silver bullet", and in order
to address youth unemployment, had to be taken together with the
reform of labour markets and education systems.
The European Parliament's Youth Intergroup said that young Europeans
who moved to another Member State to find work were likely to
be highly motivated, well educated and well-trained. However,
they might not be fully aware of their employment rights in a
different Member State and thus be vulnerable to exploitation
by unscrupulous employers.
The ETUC said that in general, immigrant populations were often
those suffering the worst working and life conditions and that
measures should be taken to improve the social and labour situation
of immigrant workers and young women in particular.
128. A number of witnesses highlighted that the
social implications of youth unemployment represented a pan-EU
challenge with no respect for borders.
The Greek Ambassador to the UK said that both Member States and
the EU institutions should take into account the implications
of youth migration when designing employment policies,
while Emma McClarkin MEP said that migration was primarily a Member
Phil Bennion MEP noted that there was little a Member State could
do about emigration other than make its own economy more competitive,
particularly through labour market reforms.
Youth Enterprise and Unemployment and the ETUC said that negative
effects of youth migration could only be addressed through joined
up policy-making between Member States experiencing "brain
drain" and "brain gain".
Despite the sometimes negative consequences of youth migration
due to unemployment, the Greek Ambassador and Commissioner Andor
said that the EU principles of equal treatment and freedom of
workers should be upheld properly.
129. In the current difficult economic and
employment climate, we believe that the free movement of workers
in the EU is particularly important. The use of these rights can
contribute to reducing youth unemployment in the EU.
EU measures to support youth
130. The British Chambers of Commerce, NUS and
British Youth Council spoke about the importance of EU programmes
such as Erasmus + and Youth on the Move in encouraging the free
movement of young people and workers across the EU.
EURES, the EU's online job portal, which includes a pan-EU job
search facility and information about working abroad (see Chapter
3, Box 4), was seen by the European Commission as one of the key
elements of the Youth Employment Package. However, the NUS and
British Youth Council suggested that most young people were not
aware of EURES, at least in the UK and there was some criticism
of its functionality and content.
Crossrail said that it had deliberately chosen not to post its
vacancies on EURES because it wanted to recruit people from the
UK as much as possible.
The British Chambers of Commerce, British Youth Council and NUS
all agreed that more needed to be done in a UK context to make
young people more aware of the opportunities available to them
elsewhere in the EU and to help them understand that barriers
to participation, such as language ability, were not as problematic
as they might think.
The Gilfillan Partnership supported the approach taken by some
Member States to dedicate a proportion of their ESF allocations
to support young people to study or work abroad for a period of
time. As an example, it highlighted the positive impact that the
youth-focussed 'Integration durch Austausch' programme
in Germany had had on its participants' lives.
131. Commissioner Andor said that the European
Commission had carried out EU-wide surveys, which showed that
more than half of all young people were interested in job opportunities
in other countries if they were unable to find one in close proximity
to their area.
Conversely, Dr Copeland and Professor Maguire said that
the vast majority of the EU's young people wanted to stay in their
own Member State, suggesting that a focus on young people accessing
jobs in their own Member State would be more appropriate.
Dr Copeland said that the Youth Guarantee was an attempt
to address the unemployment issue for those young people who did
not wish to migrate to other EU Member States for work. In the
context of the UK, Rachel Wenstone, NUS, said that the failure
to become mobile in the search for work could be a "huge
opportunity lost for most of our young people".
132. The evidence we received from many witnesses
highlighted the difficulties young people can face in becoming
mobile in their local areas and countries, let alone travelling
to another Member State. Professor Maguire, Impetus and UNISON
highlighted that for the majority of young people who become NEET,
the structure of opportunities available to them was defined by
their local environment.
133. We recommend that schools, higher education
institutions and youth groups, as well as government and EU institutions,
provide more information and encouragement to young people about
the opportunities and support available to them to seek employment
elsewhere in the EU.
134. A number of witnesses said that EU initiatives
and funds should be more targeted at supporting youth entrepreneurship,
for example, through funding incubators and centres that focus
specifically on young people with new ideas and business initiatives.
Dr Copeland said that this approach would have a much greater
long-term impact on the problem of youth unemployment than simply
focusing on education and training.
135. NACUE, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the
Prince's Trust argued that young people should be encouraged to
set-up their own companies, bringing their skills to the market,
rather than waiting for the market to respond to their skills.
NACUE said that local entrepreneurship would create local jobs,
preventing young people being drawn to larger cities, where they
would have to compete in a much larger workforce, for jobs in
which they may be underemployed.
While the UK Government did not explicitly endorse this call,
they agreed that LEPs should consider using EU funds to encourage
136. We recommend that the European Commission
should make youth entrepreneurship a more explicit focus for the
European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.
196 Professor Simms; Q 164 Back
Professor Simms Back
Professor Simms; Q 72; Q 164 Back
Q 145; Q 164; Q 210 Back
UK Government , 'contract types and employer responsibilities',
Q 71; Q 215 Back
Q 74; Q 134; Q 215 Back
Q 196 Back
COM(2013) 857 final Back
Flash Eurobarometer 378, (November 2013), The experience of
traineeships in the EU Back
European Commission website, 'European Alliance for Apprenticeships',
Q 29; Q 87; Q94; Impetus Back
Q 99 Back
Q 89 Back
Q 20; Q 117; ETUC Back
Q 120 Back
Q 20; Q 180 Back
Q 196 Back
CEDEFOP's (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training)
2008 definition of apprenticeship was: "Systematic, long-term
training alternating periods at the workplace and in an educational
institution or training centre. The apprentice is contractually
linked to the employer and receives remuneration (wage or allowance).
The employer assumes responsibility for providing the trainee
with training leading to a specific occupation." Back
QQ 199-200 Back
Q 209; see also written evidence from the Austrian Parliament,
for further information on the Austrian apprenticeship model.
QQ 87-88 Back
Q 87 Back
UK Government explanatory memorandum on COM(2013) 857 Back
Q 252 Back
Article 45, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Back
Q 154 Back
Q 83 Back
Max Uebe, European Commission; Q 13 Back
Q 218 Back
European Parliament Youth Intergroup Back
Employment Pathways; Prospects; Belgian House of Representatives Back
Greek Ambassador to the UK Back
Emma McClarkin MEP Back
Phil Bennion MEP Back
YEU; ETUC. 'brain gain' and 'brain drain' are terms commonly used
to describe the positive and negative consequences of migration
of educated and productive individuals. Back
Greek Ambassador to the UK; Q 193 Back
Q 83; Q 140 Back
Dr Paul Copeland; Sue Maguire; Q 130; Q 231 Back
Q 90 Back
Q 140; Q 83 Back
The Gilfillan Partnership. The "IdA-Integration through Exchange"
programme supports the vocational integration of groups of individuals
in Germany with difficulties in entering the labour market, by
facilitating practical occupational experiences for them in other
EU countries. Back
Q 193 Back
Dr Paul Copeland; Professor Sue Maguire Back
Q 140 Back
Professor Sue Maguire; Impetus, Q 83 Back
Prospects; Princes Trust; NACUE; Association of Graduate Careers
Advisory Services (AGCAS); Youth Enterprise and Unemployment Back
Dr Paul Copeland Back
Q 134; Royal Bank of Scotland; Q 56 Back
Q 135 Back
Q 255 Back