- It seems that despite the reduction in recent years, youth unemployment is still a pending issue when compared to that of the most developed European countries. What are the causes? How do you think this challenge should be addressed?
The unemployment data are collinear to another data in which unfortunately we also stand out negatively at European level: early school dropouts, which are about 15%. I believe that this is the main cause. We have evidence that unqualified young people are not hired, especially if they are younger than 20 years old.
This past December, for example, there were about 25,000 young people under 25 years of age registered as unemployed and looking for work, 65% of whom lack post-compulsory education. And to this statistic we must add that, according to the EPA data, there are more than 70,000 young people of that age who are not registered in the SOC.
Therefore, if we agree that one of the main causes of high youth unemployment is early school dropout and, as a consequence, the low or null qualification of young people, the challenge is to promote professional qualification. This is undoubtedly the case when, on the other hand, companies, and certain sectors in particular, are currently having real difficulties in finding qualified personnel.
The way to combat early school leavers and promote qualifications would be to deploy the whole battery of measures that are already known, but which have not yet been sufficiently implemented. Such as providing good guidance and accompaniment during ESO, seeking personalized and comprehensive attention and accompaniment for young people throughout their life transitions, promoting professional vocations in high demand, offering learning models that are less academic and more professionalizing, offering programs for new guidance and learning opportunities as consolidated pathways in the training offer and not as compensatory measures, or reinforcing the policy of scholarships and grants, among others.
It should not be forgotten that school dropout rates are also clearly correlated with social vulnerability, so any social policy will be an element that contributes to reducing youth unemployment.
- What is your assessment of the labor reform and its impact on youth employment?
I do not yet have a thoughtful analysis, but it is clear that it has improved stability. Last month, one third of young people under 25 years of age were hired under an open-ended contract, whereas a year ago this figure barely reached 10% of contracts.
However, we note that the types of contracts designed for young people have not yet been deployed as they should be, although they have been reformed. The alternating training contract and internship contracts are still token contracts, most probably because companies are not yet familiar with them. And they are crucial, the first because it is an excellent formula for offering dual training to young people who already have the skills to combine learning with work, and the second because it is the way to acquire a first professional experience in a market that is often the first thing they are asked to do. The SOC is promoting these modalities as never before, although there is still a long way to go.
- Last year the SOC invested 125 million euros in subsidizing the hiring of unemployed young people under 30. What has been the impact of this investment?
The impact in terms of program execution is that, for the moment, contracts have been subsidized for more than 5,300 young people and companies. The question is whether this investment has led to the hiring of young people by companies that, without this aid, would not have hired. To this end, the SOC has planned a careful evaluation of this program to determine the extent to which this has happened, among other analyses.
It is well known that hiring subsidy policies have a high risk of incurring the so-called deadweight effect, which means that, in reality, the aid has not been a lever for deciding or conditioning hiring, but that hiring would have taken place anyway. However, it is also true that this risk is reduced in crisis contexts, an exception that AIREF’s own reports acknowledge. It should also be noted that this investment was designed in the midst of the pandemic, at a time of collapse that particularly affected certain sectors of economic activity, and is therefore also conceived under a prism of economic reactivation and stimulus.
However, in this program, what we mentioned before, the lack of commitment to the internship hiring modality, was noted. This modality is positive by nature, since it is the way to offer a first work experience in what has been studied. Every young person who completes a CP, cycle or degree course should be able to access this modality, if they do not have the option of a better one.
- Last year was the first time a dual training program was implemented within the framework of active employment policies. What is your assessment?
Extraordinary. In the edition of the FPODUAL program to be implemented during 2023, 95 projects have been awarded, which will involve the training and hiring of more than 1,300 young people in nearly 600 companies, essentially SMEs and micro-SMEs.
This program is being the driving force to extend training contracts in alternation (dual) for young people among small companies. Projects are being carried out in absolutely strategic sectors such as facilities, food industry, logistics, social and health care or forestry.
It is currently responding to young people who need a job and wish to obtain a qualification, to companies that need qualified personnel, and to sectors and territories that want to boost themselves.
- Autoocupació’s claim is I am what I want to be. And you, are you?
I would say no. It’s like that phrase ‘there is no path, you make the path as you walk’, I would rather say that I am ‘under construction’. What I want to be is always a pending milestone. From a professional point of view, for example, the aspiration would be to be part of a public service model that successfully faces the challenges we have been discussing, and we still have work to do.