With a youth unemployment rate around 50 per cent, Greece presents its young people with a stark choice: Emigrate and join a brain drain to Western Europe and beyond, or stay in their homeland and struggle against long odds to find a livelihood. The country’s recession-battered traditional industries have little to offer, so for many young people, the coveted prize has become a government job, obtained through the sponsorship of a political party.
But some are trying to draw instead on the country’s mercantile roots to build businesses of their own, despite all the impediments.
At least a half-dozen small-business incubators and co-working spaces – buildings in which entrepreneurs can rent space cheaply and benefit from proximity to one another – have sprung up in Athens, nurturing new companies with up to about 20 employees.
A number of philanthropic organizations have sponsored contests and awarded seed money to young Greek entrepreneurs. Among them is the Hellenic Initiative, a non-profit that receives support from Greeks abroad.
What support is available?
For young people
The scheme funds language courses or other forms of training. It also covers travel expenses for young people applying for jobs or work-based training, enabling them to attend job interviews and settle in other EU countries to take up employment.
The mobility package includes new support measures for young people, described in the 2014-2015 Guide.
Companies with up to 250 employees can apply for financial support towards the cost of training newly-recruited workers, trainees or apprentices and helping them settle in.
Earlier this month, France became the first and so far only EU country to receive an approval for its national scheme. The Commission will make funding available so that France can receive €620 million from the YEI and the European Social Fund (ESF). The money will go towards helping young people who not in employment, education or training (the so-called NEETs) to find a job in those regions where youth unemployment rates over 25%.
But though France secured the EU funds, the Commission has criticised the efficiency of national measures.
“Public services to promote youth employment (called ‘local missions’) are having difficulties proposing appropriate services to job-seekers,” the Commission emphasised in its recommendations on France’s 2014 national reform programme, issued on 2 June.
According to the Commission, the measures taken by the French government to deliver the Youth Guarantee are “insufficient”.
“The actual quality of this support, which includes CV-writing workshops and interview simulations, is unclear at this stage. Moreover, this guarantee only tackles a minor part of the overall youth unemployment, as there are 674,000 young people registered in total,” the Commission said.
To support the transition from school to work, the Commission has proposed Country Specific Recommendations to Member States on improving public employment services, education and training, boosting apprenticeships, and urgently implementing the Youth Guarantee.
Some groups have been finding it particularly hard to find work, not just since the recession but for many years. The European labour market has been polarising, with mid-skill jobs disappearing as high-skill and low-skill jobs take over.
Europe needs to significantly increase in its employment rate in order to tackle its cyclical and structural unemployment problems, and to create more high-productivity, well-paid jobs. To do so, we must do more to develop the skills of young people who do not go through university, and to help individuals to update their skills throughout their working lives. At the same time, people need to be incentivised to acquire new skills and firms must be encouraged to utilise those skills.
In particular, these measures aim to:
- develop the skills of young people
- ensure that the work experience placements offer high quality safe, providing adequate training in terms of educational content and social protection
- improve the quality and supply of apprenticeship programs
- to give young people more opportunities to work and train abroad, promoting mobility in countries through the EURES network