“If the job market doesn’t exist, then even the most brilliant Youth Guarantee cannot ensure a job to these young people”, European Youth Forum Secretary General Giuseppe Porcaro on another Sting Exclusive

Giuseppe_Porcaro

Giuseppe Porcaro’s exclusive interview with Panos Katsampanis at the Sting’s pavilion during EBS 2014

This revealing exclusive interview with Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum, was conducted by Panos Katsampanis at the European Sting’s pavilion during European Business Summit 2014. In the following interview Panos Katsampanis will be signalled as P.K and Mr Porcaro as G.P.

 

P.K.: We are pleased to welcome to the European Sting’s pavilion Mr Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum. Hello Giuseppe. What do you think about this year’s EBS?

G.P.: It is extremely interesting; a lot of people, a lot of speakers; I think this is at a crucial moment, just before the European elections; very interesting discussions.

P.K.: Thank you very much Giuseppe for acception to talk to us about European youth. We have prepared some questions for you about youth education, employment and unemployment. Before I go to the questions, I would like to ask you to tell us a few things about the European Youth Forum, because there are some people from our readers that are not familiar with what you do, your scow and the magnitude of the organisation.

G.P.: As you say, the European Youth Forum is the platform of youth organisations in Europe. We represent more than 98 members that are part of the platform. Both platforms are in national level as in international movements of young people. The interesting part is that we are striving for the rights of young people and we do that by bringing the voice of youth to the institutions. This is our core business.

P.K.: Let’s to the questions now if you agree. The first one is on European education. Do European students receive today quality education  in Europe? Is good education affordable to every student in Europe regardless of her economic power? And how does the European Youth Forum work to ensure quality and equal education for European students?

G.P.: Thanks a lot. This is indeed a very important issue for the European Youth forum; the issue of education, but not just the issue of education but the issue of quality education. You mentioned several different elements, several different dimensions of the problem. One is ensuring the quality in the curriculum, quality in the relevance of education that is being reached. Here we are strongly looking at the relevance of the education regarding the kind of skills that the young people need in today’s Europe. The kind of skills that they need not only as future employees but also the kind of skills they need as future citizens. And from this point of view it is very important to look at a holistic approach towards education. So, not only what is happening in the school system, in the education, but also what is happening outside formal education system; meaning no formal education. This is extremely important. Second element that you mention is the accessibility; access to education, the issue of the fees. We saw that in some countries in Europe these fees have been raising, we have been seeing the students on the streets, like UK for instance.

P.K.: Sorry to interrupt you here. Let’s touch the example of UK. Do you believe that the British students have a power to change this? I mean with these riots do you think they have the power or a say in british educational system to maintain the fees at normal and logic levels?

G.P.: Well going on the street and showing that there is a critical mass that is the first step. It is a necessary step. We know that without students in the street in 1968 things wouldn’t have changed. But it is not enough and there is also some dialogue at a political level; So the part of the mobilisation has to be complimented with a strong work at the political level. And this is something that should be seen within the frame of the UK political scenario, arena at the moment.

P.K.: Do you see that the European Youth Forum can actually help the voices of the European citizens to be heard in Brussels and in what manner?

G.P.: At the Youth forum we strongly support the national members and our members at the British Youth council. We also don’t interfere directly with national matters but we support the national struggles by seeing when it starts to become a European problem. What we do is to support any kind of pledge that the British can bring here in Brussels for example; or support in terms of capacity the British youth council as they are our members. But we don’t go directly and intervene into an affair. It is a UK affair. And we can understand it from this point of view. But for example we are fighting or we are asking more investment in education at the European level and we are asking for common policies that can assure equal access to education. So from this point of view I would say indirectly we are trying to help the students not only in the UK but actually everywhere in Europe.

P.K.: So let’s move on to the next question. It is on employment and youth employment, particularly it’s on European internships. Does European youth have access to good quality internships today? And how does European youth work to secure top quality internships for for European youth? What is your opinion on the effectiveness of the Youth Guarantee scheme?

G.P. Again a super relevant questions when it comes to the transition from education to the labour market. , because we see in general internships as an important moment that guarantees such transition rather than an already full pledged job. That’s extremely important to see. From there we have our main core demand that internships are not going to be considered as an alternative to cheap labour. They are actually a quality moment, a learning moment in order to bring the young people in the labour market. To be concrete the European Youth Forum already a few years ago together with a coalition composed by the trade unions, the student organisations, composed by a quite large number of members of the European Parliament, plus some national platforms that are striving for quality internships like Generation Precaire in France, Interns Aware in the UK, Reppublica dei Stagisti in Itali. We put all together a charter, a European charter of on quality internships that exactly touches the points that you have been putting forward. And with this charter  we actually invited also the business sector to join, even so we never managed to get BUSINESSEUROPE on board, that consistently refused to be on board for this charter; we advocated at the institutional level, so we got a process within the Commission, we got at the end of last year the European Commission setting up the framework for Quality Traineeships and Apprenticeships for instance, which even not satisfactory, was coming from this initiative of the charter. But also, and this is I think the most interesting part, we managed to bring on board despite the opposition of the traditional business representation, we managed to bring on board major corporations, like Microsoft, to sign the charter on quality internships, which proves that actually having quality internships is not only an advantage for the young people and one of their rights, but it is actually also an advantage for  the company that invests in the future of skilled young people that will eventually bring back this investment in the company. Definitely we are doing a lot in this and we are continuing to strive, we are enlarging, we are in dialogue with ADECCO, we are in dialogue with the British Chamber of Commerce; we are in dialogue with many other actors in order to scale up this process and not only at the institutional level but also at the business level. When it comes to the Youth Guarantee, things are a little bit more complicated. Because also it is one of the requests that at the Youth Forum we started to ask since 2010 to the Insitutions and we are very happy that in the current multi annual financial framework there has been a direct investment and clear indication about setting up a Youth Guarantee Scheme at the European level. However, what were being also criticising are two elements: one is the money allocation, that the European Council has been foreseeing, because 7 billion euros in 7 years it’s not enough. Eurofound has been doing a study saying that there should 20 million euros to implement; seconf critique on the implementation at the national level is to ensure that actually the measure that has been adopted will not replicate measures of the past that didn’t really worth and then just repackage them to get some kind of public funding and then call them Youth Guarantee. So, we need to watch these two sides, it is not only a matter of money, it is also a matter of how things are going to be implemented very soon at local level. I want to ask something about particularly the Youth Guarantee Scheme.

P.K.: I want to ask something particularly on the Youth Guarantee Scheme. Some critics say that it works mainly as an extra incentive to companies to hire young people for unpaid positions or really low salaries to do jobs that are not quality, like coffee jobs or making photocopies. So what is your feeling about the Youth Guarantee Scheme? Is it in the end of the day a fund addressed to SMEs to get some more money with the excuse of hiring people or is it really tackling the issue of youth unemployment in Europe?

G.P.: Very relevant observation from your side. But first of all we need to look at what actually the Youth Guarantee or rather what the Youth Guarantee should be and what it cannot be. So it cannot be a measure to solve the youth unemployment in Europe. Because the issue of your unemployment in Europe is also extremely linked to structural measures about the macro-economic level or job creation in Europe. The Youth Guarantee is not tackling this issue. The Youth Guarantee is tackling the insertion or the re-insertion in the job market of young people that for several months they have not been in education or training or a job and therefore trying to requalify those young people in order to be equipped to be ready for the job market. But if the job market doesn’t exist, then even the most brilliant Youth Guarantee cannot ensure a job for these young people. So looking at this point of view the Youth Guarantee should finance those measures that allow those young people to get the correct and right skills, to be then equipped for the job market. So if a company is using the money of the Youth Guarantee to finance coffee jobs at the end of the day it doesn’t full fill the main goal of the Youth Guarantee because these are not the kind of skills that they need to be requalified.

P.K.: Do you think there is any control over that? How can you secure that these funds are allocated in a good manner to really give the reasons to these people and the curriculum they need to get back to the job market.

G.P.: This is the whole point about the monitoring of the Youth Guarantee Scheme and this is one of the other things that we have been at the European Youth Forum from the beginning asking, that the a big strong system of monitoring of how those funds are spent and how those funds are planned to be spent; and for this having a very important mechanism of governance of the Youth Guarantee that will not only include people from the ministries and the government but also including the youth civil society; that can act as a watchdog exactly for this kind of things not to happen.

P.K.: Now we go to the last question of the interview. Youth unemployment is raging currently in Europe, reaching in some member states horrible figures up to 60% for young people below 25. How does the European Youth Forum feels about that and what are the actions undertaken to mobilise European policy to tackle this primordial issue fast and effectively?

G.P.: I think that the answers I gave to the three first questions are all around that main topic. I mentioning a little bit for the Youth Guarantee reply, when I said that at the end of the day what it counts is not the specific measures we are working on; specific measure mainly addressing the educational system to make it more fit with the needs, addressing all the part of the transition from the education into the labour market and then addressing mainly the dysfunctions that there are in the labour market itself; notably very important is the issue of contracts for example, the issue of precarious contracts, the issue of the harmonisation of the contracts among the European Union; this is the whole set of issues that remains unfulfilled because labour legislation is still very national and not European. So we are asking for more Europe from this point of view also in labour legislation. And then in general rethinking a little bit how the future of European industry and European project would fulfil the growth that is needed. It is not just by repeating the same things that have been already written in the Europe 2020 strategy for example, or before in the Lisbon strategy and so on. We really have to rethink how this continent can compete and grow with the rest of the world building not only on the excellences but also on the fact and on the need that the territories need still to produce something and not only focus on the excellence part. Otherwise we will have only a few parts of Europe that will grow and the rest of Europe that will drag behind. And that is very strongly felt at the European Youth Forum; that we should start this reflection not only on the specific measures but on a broader scheme.

P.K.: Another question based on the previous on unemployment that reaches really sad figures. Mostly the south of Europe is suffering from that. I want to know if you believe that in Europe as an idea, as an aim or as a vision it is impossible to try to have equal opportunities for young people all around the European Union.

G.P.: As I said before, it comes together with the need to have an harmonius development of the continent, knowing which are the challenges but also being realistic with it. We know that every place in Europe can be a central place; we know that there is always going to be semi-periphery and periphery of the continent. However within this kind of frame we can do things that would allow young people to access opportunities in the local communities where they live as well as, if they want- and it is very important- only if they want to freely move and go around and find other opportunities. But these two should be always foreseen and available for the young people. I don’t accept that rhetoric of some politicians that says that the only solution for the youth unemployment in Spain is to move all unemployed young people there to Germany. And this I even heard some advertisements from the European Commission to advertise mobility programs. I think this is exactly the rhetoric that is unacceptable.

P.K.: This is indeed unacceptable. Every person should have the right to live and grow at the country of origin, if he chooses to. When you listen to this kind of statements from really high political personalities or leaders of countries, this is the saddest thing for Europe according to me. There is no solution that European young people go to other markets to be more competitive and cheaper and cover the needs of these markets. What about the markets where the brightest minds are leaving and departing to Germany or to Belgium or to France? I mean this is not the Europe we would like to have. Thank you very much Giuseppe for this interview. –

the sting Milestone

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