A delegation comprising the presidents of Austria´s four social partner organisations presented Thursday in Brussels their country´s model as an example of best practice successfully helping young people find worthwhile employment.
The heads of the Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), the Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ), the Federal Chamber of Labour (BAK) and the Chamber of Agriculture (LKÖ) explained about the Austrian Social Partnership, a co-operation between the major economic interest groups and between them and the government, and said that this is one of the key factors for the country´s success to fight youth unemployment.
While currently 7.5 million young Europeans under the age of 25 are jobless (around 23%), the percentage of youth unemployment in Austria is the lowest in the European Union (EU) – some 8.7%.
Youth unemployment should be tackled through training", said Erich Foglar (ÖGB). Austria has a long tradition of apprenticeships which are undertaken by some 40% of school leavers. For those who finish school without the necessary skills to take up an apprenticeship, Austria also has a Youth Guarantee scheme providing support for those having difficulty to find suitable placements. In practice, 80% of an Austrian apprenticeship involves working in an enterprise, while 20% is spent in school.
Interesting to point out is that Austria´s apprenticeship model directly involves the social partners, with one of the success factors lying in the influence that enterprises and workers, both represented by the social partner organisations, have on the content of the apprenticeship system.
The four Austrian organisations believe that the €6 billion pre-allocated by the EU Council in the next Union budget to deal with unemployment is not enough. They say that more investment in education and training is needed and suggest that the Austrian model could be transferred also to other member states.
The high levels of youth unemployment across the EU have already let other European countries to examine the merits of the apprenticeship system. Germany, which shares a similar apprenticeship model culture to Austria, has sent delegates to Spain to demonstrate how the model works.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) President Henri Malosse, on whose invitation the Austrian social partner organisations speak at the committee´s plenary session, urged the decision-makers to learn from the Austrian model. The EESC would like to see the model implemented also in other member states and considers that the age limit of the implemented national job and training guarantees should be extended to 30. Malosse also stressed that it was scandalous that important decisions have been postponed at the meeting of the European Council on 22 May.
Other opinions will be disscused and voted on at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) plenary session of the include:
For a social dimension of the European Economic and Monetary Union
It is time to build the social pillar of the EMU within the framework of a social Europe, without which citizens´ adhesion to the European project as a whole will remain at risk. The EESC´s opinion is likely to recommend the launch of a new European Social Action Programme with tangible measures to develop social governance and participatory ownership of the European project. Two new exploratory initiatives are proposed: the issuance of European Social Bonds financed, owned, managed and supervised transparently by civil society stakeholders; the setting-up of a European Education Network for Unemployed Workers.
Social Investment Package
According to the EESC, the question of financing for the Social Investment Package remains unresolved. New sources of revenue for public budgets should lead to a proper implementation of policy priorities towards social investment and strengthening social policy in the Member States. Without adequate funding, it will remain empty words.
Where is the Euro headed?
The international economic and financial crisis exposed the structural limitations and contradictions in EMU, depriving the euro of its propensity to attract. The EESC believes that the best way to complete the monetary union, avoid recession and reduce national debt is to reverse the "stability for growth" principle and facilitate a new pact for growth, employment and stability, while involving the social partners. These are the EESC´s four recommendations for completing the euro framework: establish EU economic governance for growth; create a system of monetary and financial governance to complete the ECB´s mandate and the banking union; move towards a political and social union; and strengthen the international role of the EU and global governance.
A deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union
The EESC feels that the Commission Blueprint may prove a historic turning point provided that the Council finally musters the courage and the will necessary to adopt and put into effect the provisions that will help to achieve the stated objectives swiftly. To achieve genuine EMU, the EESC urges to launch immediately a European growth initiative, implement a solution to the debt issue, and complete the single market and banking union. In the medium-long term, possibly with changes to the Treaty, it is necessary to establish genuine EU economic governance, complete the mandate of the ECB, establish fiscal, social and political union, and give the EU a more representative role in international bodies.
Smart border package
Following its opinion, the EESC will demand that the new Entry/Exit System for EU borders do not affect third-country nationals´ travel and willingness to travel to the EU, and that fundamental rights be fully respected.
The green economy – promoting sustainable development in Europe
In its opinion the EESC stresses that developing an inclusive green economy will be Europe´s main challenge in the coming years if it wants to remain a global economic power. The EESC advocates a new development model that prioritises public investments and offers incentives for businesses to invest in "green" infrastructure and step up research, development and innovation efforts for a sustainable, competitive and resilient economy. Putting green economy into practice helps promote production and create jobs in order to emerge from the current economic crisis.