On the 18th of April 2016 the European Youth Forum organised the first of three debates with the Political Party Youth Organisations, with representatives of Liberals, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Greens, Left, and Federalists. This debate was on the issue of youth unemployment, and LYMEC, represented by Secretary General Igor Caldeira, defended a series of positive reform proposals in education, focused on vocational education and training, entrepreneurship, ICT and financial literacy and non-formal education through civic activism. We also defended fairer and more flexible labour, migration, tax, business and trade regulations that reduce barriers for growth, mobility and innovation.
Below you can read the opening and closing remarks at this debate.
In many European countries, already high youth unemployment rates before the financial crisis exploded after 2007. These countries for the most share common social, economic and political profiles: rigid labour markets that protect baby boomers to the detriment of millennials, bad public finances, and de-structured educational systems with few investments in practical and technical skills and universities refusing to adapt to current economic demands.
But in other European countries the scenario is opposite. These countries tend to have responsible public finances that do not hurt too much future generations to the benefit of the present, with labour laws that allow young people to get real remuneration for real work experience, where yes, there are a lot of university graduates, but also a lot, if not the majority, of students and workers with practical skills that are adapted to the economic demands.
Indeed, we cannot spend our way out of a crisis of expenditure and still say we defend intergenerational justice; we cannot criticize the unemployment of graduates, and then refuse to have any interaction between economic actors and our educational systems; and we cannot be surprised when some countries are incapable of reacting to the normal fluctuation of our economic systems, when their labour markets are rigid, their taxation is high and their bureaucratic system strangles all social or economic entrepreneurship.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. So what should we do?
- Reform our educational systems, focusing on providing everyone with technical skills, while introducing in our curricula subjects such as entrepreneurship and coding;
- Reform our labour and migration laws, business regulations and tax systems, making it easier to hire people, move to another country, start businesses and reducing tax complexity that spurs fraud and hurts SME’s to the benefit of bigger companies;
- Finally, we must stop lying to young people, telling them a university diploma will allow them to land a highly remunerated job. Instead, we must dignify vocational education and training, social activism and entrepreneurship as well as non-formal education.
In a recent debate with university students one of them asked if having only a university diploma should not be enough to have a job. This type of vision, dislocated from reality, must be fought against.
Probably the most important question that in politics we must answer was formulated by Lenin: ‘What is to be done?’. Obviously the answer to the issue of employment, that we are discussing today, and actually to any other question, is not the one given by Lenin in 1901/1902, and that continues to be given by those political groups to our left, but actually quite the opposite.
- Instead of allowing incompetent politicians to buy present voters with money of the future generations, we must fight for intergenerational justice and reduce public debt.
- Instead of defending schools and universities where critical thinking is suppressed and technical skills are disdained, we must provide young people with the intellectual and practical resources to face the demands of the labour market, while promoting financial literacy, democratic participation, mobility and non-formal education.
- Finally, we must have economic, administrative, fiscal an free trade policies that provide fair solutions for all, and not just for some.
It is all too easy in politics to promise a special programme for this social group, a subsidy for that other group, or a guarantee to the youth.
But we cannot fix a bad system by giving fake solutions to some groups.
We as Liberals do not support such populist policies. We do not want to buy votes or support, but to deliver real and fair solutions for all.