Youth unemployment in the EU: a scarred generation? - European Union Committee Contents

Chapter 7: Evidence of good practice

EU measures to share good practice

137.  This Chapter considers the extent to which stakeholders at all levels are engaged in sharing and learning from good practice and to what extent, if any, this improved the effectiveness of measures to address youth unemployment.

138.  The EU institutions have long-established methods of sharing good practice amongst Member States, such as, the Open Method of Coordination (OMC),[250] mutual learning programmes and other policies.[251] On the specific issue of youth unemployment, witnesses drew our attention to the European Commission's published compilations of good practice[252] and a number of events that the European Commission has organised in recent years to facilitate the two-way "transfer of learning" that takes place between Member States and other stakeholders.[253] Commissioner Andor said that the European Commission itself tries to learn from practice elsewhere and that it works with the ILO to develop the EU's policies in this way.[254] The European Commission's Recommendation for the creation of an EU-wide Youth Guarantee (see Chapter 3, Box 4) is itself based on successful practice from Nordic Member States.

139.  The UK Government said that they looked to countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Austria for ideas, but they emphasised the importance of looking for good practice internationally, whether it came from within or outside the EU. They said they found the OECD's work more useful and market-oriented as compared to that of the EU and preferable to "an attempt to co-ordinate policy from Brussels".[255] Birmingham City Council said, "there are an awful lot of things that you can learn from other places" and that this learning could take place at the level of local bodies, within regions and territories, as well as between Member States.[256]


140.  Much of the evidence we received said that one of the best ways in which the EU institutions could help reduce youth unemployment was by encouraging and facilitating the identification and exchange of good practice. As a fundamental principle, the Gilfillan Partnership said that learning about what has gone before was an essential prerequisite if the mistakes of history were not to be repeated. It said that getting this right could save millions in spending and improve services exponentially.[257]

141.  Heart of the South West LEP, said that more could be done to make it easier for LEPs and other stakeholders, who may have limited capacity and resources, to search by topic as well as type of economy for examples of good practice.[258] At the same time, however, Professor Sloman highlighted the subsequent risk of creating too many schemes and events to share good practice, which could lead to "initiative fatigue" amongst stakeholders such as employers.[259]

142.  Dr Copeland concluded that the overall effect of the EU's use of financial support, exchange of good practice, peer reviews, monitoring and evaluation reports, and in some cases, legislation, had been to build pressure on Member States to take youth matters into account when developing national laws and policies.[260] However, he also warned that the sharing of good practice did not manifest itself within six or 12 months and that it could take years before the implementation of good practice yielded results.[261] Prospects said that, because of the competitive nature of bidding for youth project funding, service providers might be disinclined to share examples of their successful practice for fear of losing out on future work.[262]

143.  Despite the generalised support for the sharing of good practice amongst witnesses and the examples cited of mechanisms to encourage this to happen, we were not provided with compelling, specific examples of exactly where practice from one context has been successfully transferred to another. Indeed, in the context of the UK Government and other stakeholders failing to learn from the success of other chambers of commerce elsewhere in Europe, Lord Heseltine said that "the problems are well known and long-standing and have too often been not quite ignored but never properly addressed".[263] Pervenche Berès MEP said that the whole idea that exchange of good practice leads to good governance was being challenged by the current high levels of youth unemployment in the EU.[264]

144.  There are many examples of good practice available at local, national and EU levels. We acknowledge the efforts that the European Commission has made in facilitating the sharing of these examples through publications and through the organisation of meetings and conferences for relevant stakeholders to compare experiences.

145.  Implementing good practice successfully is a challenge because of the different social and economic factors at play in different regions. We believe there is scope for the European Commission and Member States to use EU funds to conduct more detailed analysis about how good practice can be used to improve the performance of measures that seek to address youth unemployment.

Role of social partners

146.  Many witnesses referred to the importance of a social dialogue, that is to say, a good working relationship between social partners (trade unions and employers' organisations)[265] and government as an important ingredient to reduce youth unemployment. Commissioner Andor said that the European Commission had a responsibility to promote social dialogue for the sake of economic performance and social cooperation, but it could not force a specific format of industrial relations or social dialogue on Member States.[266]

147.  The ETUC spoke strongly in favour of involving social partners in the policy-making process and said that "the best way to tailor a European initiative is through social dialogue".[267] It highlighted that, together with Business Europe, the European Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAMPE) and the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises Providing Public Services (CEEP), it was a partner in supporting the Framework of Actions on Youth Employment.[268] The Centre for European Studies attributed Germany's relative economic success to reforms enacted by the Schroeder government in 2003-04 which involved working with social partners to enact corporate downsizing and restructuring and wage reticence on the part of the unions.[269]

148.  The TUC, UNISON and the British Chambers of Commerce said that social partnership was less well developed in the UK than in mainland Europe.[270] However, they expressed a willingness to work together on issues such as career advice in schools and improving the representation of young people in their organisations.[271]

149.  British Chambers of Commerce said that there were varying degrees of engagement from businesses and employers in tackling the issue of youth unemployment. It said that some employers and businesses were probably too busy running their operations and did not have the time to think about how they could contribute to reducing unemployment. [272] Adam Swash, Experian, said that only somewhere between five and 10 per cent of small businesses had a rapid growth rate, so it would be unrealistic to expect small businesses to hire enough young people to reduce substantially the numbers of young unemployed.[273] Albeit from the perspective of larger businesses, WORKing for YOUth and Barclays provided examples of employer engagement in tackling youth unemployment by engaging in the education and skills agenda, as well as in hiring and training young people.[274]

150.  We welcome the increased cooperation between employers and trade unions at UK and EU level to reduce youth unemployment. We recommend that the UK Government learn from the good practice in other Member States, where social partners (trade unions and employers' organisations) work more closely with the government and with each other.

250   The open method of coordination (OMC) provides Member States with an intergovernmental framework to evaluate each other, with the Commission's role being limited to surveillance. The European Parliament and the Court of Justice play virtually no part in the OMC process. The OMC takes place in areas which fall within the competence of the Member States, such as employment; social protection; social inclusion; education; and youth and training. Back

251   Q 26; Q 190; Phil Bennion MEP; Q 125; Q 182 Back

252   Q 115; Q 125. Publications cited by Ms Hadjivassiliou included: DG Employment, European Commission,'The European Social Fund: Giving Young People a Better Start in Life', December 2011; DG Employment, European Commission, 'Apprenticeship and Traineeship Schemes in EU27: Key Success Factors-A Guidebook for Policy Planners and Practitioners', December 2013; Peer review Executive Summary: 'Youth Unemployment: how to prevent and tackle it?', November 2013. Back

253   Q 115 Back

254   Q 194 Back

255   Q 234  Back

256   Q 46 Back

257   The Gilfillan Partnership Back

258   Heart of the South West Back

259   Q 27; the Gilfillan Partnership  Back

260   Dr Paul Copeland (2013), EU Youth Policy: Incremental Integration via Soft Law and Open Methods of Coordination.  Back

261   Q 27 Back

262   Q 58 Back

263   Q 264 Back

264   Q 148 Back

265   'Social partners' is a term generally used in Europe to refer to representatives of management and labour (employers' organisations and trade unions).  Back

266   Q 186 Back

267   Q 201 Back

268   Q 205. The Framework of Actions is based on existing and new practices linked to four priorities: learning, transition, employment and entrepreneurship. The European social partners aim to promote the most effective initiatives identified across Europe that could be used as inspiration for designing solutions by national social partners in their respective contexts. Recommendations to other relevant actors such as the EU institutions and Member States are also included. National social partners will report on their activities annually during the period 2013-2016. Back

269   Q 209  Back

270   Q 80  Back

271   QQ 76-78 Back

272   Q 73 Back

273   Q 105 Back

274   QQ 99-101 Back

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