Job vs Work; native English speakers understand the implicit difference between the words; a difference that is present in most languages. Of course, ‘job’ refers to the bread-winning specific occupation, whereas work regards the general efforts and activities to accomplice a goal. Under that light, ‘work’ is attached with a wider social meaning. The ‘work’, through its performative dimension, creates identities, appoints meaning to spaces, cultural practices and social relationships. In other words, the significance of ‘work’ towards all the elements of effective social interaction and its importance towards social inclusion is paramount.
Indeed, centuries of migration from Europe and to Europe have shown a fundamental truth. Work is key to social inclusion. It has the power to gradually transform the ‘Other’ to part of the society. And the ‘Other’ could range from the unemployed, young NEET to the migrant, refugee or minority. In that respect, the YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre with four branches in the crisis-ridden Southern Europe finds itself in the epicentre of a transformative intervention in the local societies.
Anna Goudi, the Key Account Manager of the Greek branch of the Transnational Employment Centre, notes that “if the refugee crisis created a significant challenge for Greek policy makers, in receiving and integrating asylum seekers, the pandemic has aggravated these challenges. The impact of social distancing on refugees and asylum seekers is high. Being restrained in campuses or hospitality facilities, confronted with uncertainty, anxiety, stress and frustration, their integration prospects were significantly hampered”.
Nevertheless, the health crisis distorts a wider image formed by structural factors. And in that setting, migration is a mixed phenomenon. Nicoletta Avigliano, Key Account manager of the Italian branch of the Transnational Employment Centre pinpoints the fact that “Italy has the lowest youth employment rate at European level (56.3%, against an EU average of 76% in the 25-29 age group) and the highest rate of young people not studying and not working (29.7%, EU average 16.6%). It is not surprising, that there has been a sharp increase in the number of young people emigrating in recent years: 320.000 between 2009 and 2018. The Italian situation is also affected by the difficult integration of young immigrants. Today, the employment rate of young people born abroad is lower than that of people born in Italy@ Italy has the lowest youth employment rate at European level (56.3%, against an EU average of 76% in the 25-29 age group) and the highest rate of young people not studying and not working (29.7%, EU average 16.6%). It is not surprising, then, that there has been a sharp increase in the number of young people emigrating in recent years: 320.000 between 2009 and 2018. The Italian situation is also affected by the difficult integration of young immigrants. Today, the employment rate of young people born abroad is lower than that of people born in Italy”.
What is to be done?
The YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre with its branches was designed to accommodate the needs of socially excluded locals and migrants in Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Spain. Mari Galiana Badenes, Key Account Manager of the Spanish branch explains the principle of the employment centre: “a place dedicated to tackling youth unemployment by bringing together young people, employers and policy makers in an innovative way that creates real impact and employment”. Nicoletta Avigliano underlines the steppingstones: “just the Italian branch, between October and April, trained from than 130 NEETs, followed by their job placement. Enthusiasm is abundant and as a matter of fact some of those former NEETs are now officially employees of the previously hosting companies”.
But is social integration, finally, performed?
Anna Goudi, turns to the immigrant NEETs. “Language barriers, cultural obstacles, on top of social distancing, made communication very difficult. The first step of the branch was to network and collaborate with the Ministry for Migration in Greece. After establishing links, the hardest part of convincing the migrants came. Life coaching sessions and motivational workshops were required as the necessary empowerment before training. But what stands out of this process is the hope and motive. Small things like communication, bits of knowledge, having something to do during lockdown, all of them contributed to a glimpse of optimism and the belief that they are not alone”.
In the same line, Anna Michael, Key Account Manager of the Cypriot branch of the Transnational Employment Centre notes that “through employment the youth get the opportunity to “restart” their lives and make choices on how they want to develop themselves. Our employment centre offers the necessary access to information and opportunities that facilitate social integration. The socialisation, in the framework of the YOUTHShare project, created social bonds as well as support systems among the beneficiaries, especially among migrant NEETs. For example, after being offered a job, an intern referred his YOUTHShare colleague to the employer. They have only met during training, but their connection was a turning point to the employment of the second beneficiary who was hired too. Thus, regardless, of their final employment, NEETs, through the YOUTHShare project create communities and this is the first step to a successful social integration”.
Anna Goudi, KAM at the Greek branch of the Transnational Employment Centre
Anna Michail, KAM at the Cypriot branch of the Transnational Employment Centre
Nicoletta Avigliano, KAM at the Italian branch of the Transnational Employment Centre
Mari Galiana Badenes, KAM at the Spanish branch of the Transnational Employment Centre