Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor, François Hollande, President of France, Michel Sapin, French Minister for Labour, Employment, Professional Training and Social Dialogue, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament (in the foreground, from left to right). They all participated in the EU Conference on Youth Employment. (EC Audiovisual Services 12/11/2013).

Angela Merkel, German Federal Chancellor, François Hollande, President of France, Michel Sapin, French Minister for Labour, Employment, Professional Training and Social Dialogue, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament (in the foreground, from left to right). They all participated in the EU Conference on Youth Employment. (EC Audiovisual Services 12/11/2013).

Thank God Eurostat, the EU statistical service and the Eurobarometer surveys, are still there and can produce reports refuting some commonly accepted pseudo-truths. Of course statisticians can also lie but it’s easy to expose them, while it’s much more difficult to expose the lies commonly used by politicians. A characteristic example is traineeships. This is a method to offer cheap or unpaid workers in the labour market, of course without any social security contributions being disbursed. Still, invariably, all European politicians and the Brussels bureaucracy want to convince the public opinion, that traineeship is the best way for young graduates to start a career.

This is not just a theoretical discussion if traineeship, as it is applied nowadays, has to offer anything positive to young workers. All EU member states have voted strong legislation exempting employers from any obligations towards their trainees. This is not theory. It’s hard evidence that the European social model unravels fast starting from the most vulnerable part of the labour force; the youth.

The EU programmes

As for the EU programmes, they have spearheaded the effort to make traineeship a common characteristic of the European labour market. The latest EU contribution to the effort to cut down the overall labour cost in Europe is the Youth Guarantee scheme. The idea was enthusiastically endorsed by the 28 EU leaders in their 28 June summit in Brussels. Under this scheme all member states committed to ensure that within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education all young people up to the age of 25 receive a high-quality offer of a job, an apprenticeship or a traineeship.

Given that high-quality job offers are rare nowadays, the Youth Guarantee will end up offering some real apprenticeship and lots of traineeship. Usually it’s training with the broom in retailing shops. The European Commission is about to issue directions to member states on how to apply this new Youth Guarantee scheme. Presumably, member states will receive some money to do this but the youths will get nothing but the broom.

Young and vulnerable

The European Sting has been denouncing the unpaid labour schemes, disguised as training for quite some time. Now that the Commission is preparing its direction tool-kit for member state use in applying this Youth Guarantee policy, a Eurobarometer survey was published on training. Statistical findings confirm European Sting’s negative appraisal of training schemes as applied over the past few years. Statistics also constitute a warning for the Commission, ahead of its Quality Framework for Traineeships proposal.

The basic findings of this Eurobarometer survey are the following:
*Almost six out of ten trainees (59%) did not receive any financial compensation during their last traineeship. Among those who were paid, less than a half consider it was enough to cover basic living costs.
*Four out of ten trainees did not have a written traineeship agreement or contract with the host organisation or company.
*Almost one in three traineeships (30%) is substandard either with regards to learning content or working conditions. Close to 25% report that their working conditions were different from that of regular employees and 20% consider they have not learned anything professionally useful during their traineeship.

Discouraging findings

Those findings speak for themselves. Youths have very little to gain from training schemes. Given that employers always have a large appetite for EU subsidies, which go together with those training schemes, all they care for is to fulfil the basic conditions of the programmes. Given that those terms and conditions are invariably very relaxed for businesses to join the EU sponsored training programmes, the end result is just a method to usurp European taxpayers’ money.

As for the youths they usually end up doing cleaning and other petty jobs, most of the times without payment or social security coverage. In the rare occasions that the youth possess qualifications useful to the employer, hours of work and remuneration are totally unrelated.

Undoubtedly all training schemes subsidised or not by the European Union have become a way to exploit the youths. Very rarely they gain anything out of it. Consequently the Commission has the duty to pay special attention on terms and controls, at least for the programmes subsidised with EU taxpayers’ money.

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