Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

Opinion

Fighting for young people's social future

  • More funding for 'one-stop shops' helps young people in the EU's major cities access their rights (Photo: Sinn Fein/Flickr)

Cities are ground zero in the fight to ensure all citizens have equal access to social rights.

The European Pillar of Social Rights has the potential to deliver the framework for a more inclusive Europe, but it needs better partnership with cities to get results.

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Youth unemployment continues to be much higher than unemployment in the average population and in some cities, it is becoming structural. Young people are also more likely to work in low paid jobs and become part of the 'gig economy' - a growing trend in the future of work.

As a result, more and more young people are living in poverty and are at risk of social exclusion early in life, and these impacts are concentrated in cities where most people live.

Principle four of the EU's social pillar advocates "active support to employment", by connecting social and employment services such as tailor made assistance to help young people find a job. If the pillar is to deliver on this promise, it should learn from the network approach of cities.

Cities in action

City authorities have been working for many years to design and implement active support to help young people access the labour market in line with the Eurocities Declaration on Work.

We do this by adopting integrated approaches to deal with youth unemployment, connecting different policies and brokering effective partnerships between the public and private sectors and civil society.

Rotterdam and Oulu have set up one-stop shops dedicated to youth inclusion to help young people get all the support they need in one place. The shops bring together different city departments to provide more effective and youth-friendly services on issues such as employment, training, housing and healthcare.

In Malmo we offer young jobseekers tailor-made support that meets the needs of the individual. Traditional tools like interview training and studies are varied with activities that increase health and well-being. We match jobseekers with internships and employment. Over 70 percent of those who complete a programme with us go on to work or education.

In addition, cities are doing their utmost to support youth entrepreneurship as a means to tackle youth unemployment. For example, Milan has put in place social entrepreneurship incubators in the most deprived neighbourhoods in order to help young people from difficult backgrounds use their creativity in a positive manner to set up social enterprises that can benefit their community.

Cities have also taken concrete steps to combat youth unemployment in line with the implementation of the 'Youth Guarantee' at local level. This includes individual and comprehensive support for young people to reduce the risk of school dropouts. But our experience shows that the most successful initiatives are those designed first and foremost around understanding the local community. The success of the social pillar will therefore depend on how it is implemented at the local level.

Cities can lead the way in combatting youth unemployment on the ground. Together with other members of Eurocities, the network of major European cities, we are committed to contribute to a more effective implementation of the social pillar at local level.

Building effective partnerships between different levels of government is crucial to creating a more social Europe that works for our young people.

Considering that most social policies, such as combatting youth unemployment, are implemented at local level, city authorities should be strongly involved in the design and implementation of policies related to the social pillar.

One way to turn the social pillar objectives into more concrete initiatives would be to link it to the Urban Agenda for the EU. The urban partnerships, including the one on jobs and skills in the local economy, offer an already existing multilevel governance model that could be used in the fight against youth unemployment, and other issues.

Where's the money behind the rhetoric?

The European Pillar for Social Rights would also be strengthened if it had dedicated EU funding. Without earmarking any EU funding, the implementation of the principles and rights under the pillar will remain mere political rhetoric.

The European Social Funds should be used for this purpose, to channel resources directly to the local level. In particular, resources for training, skills developments and the social inclusion of young people would capitalise on cities' potential to combat youth unemployment.

City authorities play a crucial role in fighting poverty and social exclusion, and combine this with knowledge of the local context. It is only through working together with the meaningful participation of cities that the principles of the social pillar can be made enforceable so that they will bring tangible results to people's lives and help build a better future for today's youth.

Andreas Schonstrom is deputy mayor of Malmo, Sweden and vice chair of Eurocities Social Affairs Forum

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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