Youth employment in Europe – a challenge for the churches?

CALL conference group pic“Youth employment in Europe – a challenge for the churches?” was the subject of a conference of the CSC CALL network in Brussels from 24 to 26 March. 60 persons discussed the options to address youth unemployment, coming from 17 different countries from all over Europe, delegates of churches and church organisations as well as young people.
“I am well educated, qualified, have got good skills, but I am unemployed, and feeling more and more worthless”, is what young people, affected by unemployment, expressed. Others described how companies are taking advantage of this situation by offering unpaid internships, not reflecting the knowledge and competences well educated young people are bringing in.
Professional youth and social workers analysed an ellipse of problems: There are young people who have to learn to work, to present themselves in a convincing way towards employers, but on the other hand there are political, economic and societal obstacles for them. The unemployment under well-educated youth has reached an unprecedented level in many countries of Europe, and the less qualified are struggling with the blame of society for not reaching the expectations.
In the European Parliament the conference discussed the EU policy on youth unemployment. Max Uebe, Head of Unit, General Directorate Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission explained the EU approach of supporting mobility, establishing a quality framework for traineeships as well as a European Alliance for apprenticeships, and deciding on a Youth Guarantee, so that every person under 25 gets an offer for education, training or a job within a period of 4 months. Jürgen Klute MEP (DE, EUL/NGL) highlighted the problem, that in countries which have to introduce a fiscal consolidation policy due to the crisis, the space for financial engagement to implement those European policies is rather limited or even cut down. Sari Essayah MEP (FI, EPP) underlined that Europe can only support the main efforts of the Member States, which have to change structures in their education systems as well as in the labour market. Giorgio Zecca, European Youth Forum (YFJ), emphasized the criteria “autonomy, freedom, own decision” as guiding lights for all youth policy.
Participants in the conference presented projects of good practice of various size and character. The “Kofoeds Skole” in Denmark has a long tradition in empowering young people through a differentiated offer of trainings and workshops. The “One in a million” project in the UK provides technology to inform professional youth workers of all relevant and actual information needed for their work. The Protestant Federation of Churches in Rome is at present setting up a meeting point for young unemployed to offer orientation in the “jungle of traineeships”.
One conclusion of the conference was that one main task of the churches in this situation in Europe is to emphasize the dignity and non-deniable value of every human being, not according to his or her education and professional career, but grounded in the creation in the image of God and his indelible appreciation and love of everyone through Jesus Christ.
Furthermore the participants of the conference developed a comprehensive list of requirements towards the church structures and other stakeholders on local, national and EU levels, as well as a range of practical ideas, through which churches could contribute to improving the situation of young people in Europe.
CALL, Church Action on Labour and Life, is a network of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches. At its 2012 Assembly in Brussels CALL decided to set up a working group on youth unemployment in Europe. Their results will be presented at the next Assembly, to be held from 22 to 24 September 2014 in Rome. EYCE is taking part actively in this working group.