Over 200 people from over 31 countries – scientists, policymakers and representatives of non-governmental organisations were discussing the most recent problems and trends related to the youth labour market.
Why do we focus on young people?
Max Uebe from the European Commission (Head of DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion), during his opening speech, noticed that young people who enter the labour market have little work experience, have lower workplace skills and are often employed on temporary contracts. It makes them more vulnerable to layoffs in times of crisis. Therefore, young people were among the most affected by the economic crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest challenges for public policy is to develop measures that could help these people find good quality jobs. The conference participants discussed how to effectively support young people in their transition from school to work, how to encourage them to use public programmes, and how to tailor these programs to the various needs of unemployed youth.
We need more data
Good evaluation requires good data. The participants of the first panel discussed the potential of the administrative data, e.g. unemployment registry data or social security data. These datasets allow researchers to analyse whether the unemployed individuals who took part in a support program work after its completion and what is the quality of this employment. It is also important to use the counterfactual methods that show what the labour market situation of the unemployed individuals would have been if they had not participated in a given program. Panel participants agreed that the popularization of this type of evaluation requires constant dialogue between researchers and decision-makers. Evaluation should be included as an integral part of the labour market policies at the European Union level.
Effective outreach strategies
Unemployed people rarely participate in public support programs that provide the opportunity to gain skills and professional experience. The participants of the second panel discussed how to encourage them to use institutional support. Ana Lima das Neves and Olav Kersen, representatives of the public employment services from Portugal and Estonia, argued that the cooperation with local organizations that work with young people on a daily basis is of crucial importance. Namita Datta from the World Bank pointed out that outreach strategies should use adequate communication channels and should be implemented by trustworthy institutions. All participants agreed that the cooperation with schools allows the public employment agencies to provide at-risk individuals with advice and guidance before they become disconnected from the labour market.
Mainstreaming the gender perspective
The third panel discussed women’s position in the labour market. In the introductory presentation, Judit Krekó from the Budapest Institute for Policy Analysis pointed out that young women are more likely to withdraw from the labour market due to caring responsibilities. It results from several factors, such as low availability of early education and care facilities or lack of measures that help to reconcile work and family duties. The social norms that are based on the belief that a woman’s primary sphere is in the home while a man’s primary sphere is in the labour market also create barriers. The panellists agreed that the gender perspective should be treated as an integral dimension of the design, implementation, and evaluation of public policies. Measures aiming at changing attitudes and facilitating a more equal sharing of domestic responsibilities also play an important role.
Key takeaways from the conference
The rigorous evaluation of the labour market policies is crucial. Good quality administrative data allow researchers to track the employment history of program beneficiaries in the long run. Counterfactual methods allow them to assess the impact of a given program precisely. Researchers and policymakers should take into consideration how labour market programs affect different groups of people (e.g. women and men). More emphasis should be put on supporting individuals with vulnerable backgrounds. To reach them, policymakers should use innovative outreach strategies and cooperate with local institutions that work with young people.
The conference was hosted by the Institute for Structural Research as a lead partner Youth Employment PartnerSHIP in cooperation with project members: Budapest Institute for Policy Analysis, Collegio Carlo Alberto, Foundation for Applied Economics Studies (FEDEA), National Institute for the Analysis of Public Policies (INAPP), and the University of the Basque Country, NHH – Norwegian School of Economics and J-PAL Europe.
See here the videos.