Introduction

Drawing to a close, Europe’s 2010s will arguably be remembered in two ways. They are likely to be seen as a phase of economic crisis and austerity, fragmenting international relations and political polarisation, shaped by identity politics and the wider spread of right-wing populism, culminating in the Brexit vote of 2016. However, the 2010s will also be remembered for having spurred new calls for stronger democratic voice, both in politics and the economy, for its discourse on gender equality and social divides as well as for technological change and youth protesting for climate action. Two sides of one coin, these currents are not just apparent in the world of work, but integral to it. In the 2020s, it will be a matter of forward-looking politics and economics, also for the European Union’s new leadership, to create decent prospects and security in working lives and beyond. 

Against this backdrop, the EST Working Group on Youth Employment strives to mobilise and connect youth at the European Student Think Tank. The goal is to help its audience make sense of various challenges young people face in Europe’s labour markets, both explaining and questioning how these issues are currently addressed. Through this student-led, cross-university project, the think tank in 2018/19 supports the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, a multi-stakeholder platform led by the International Labour Organisation. This UN initiative aims to catalyse action towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. After the Working Group’s release of its first five papers in March 2019, this second wave of publications contains four Policy Briefs (available below) that further cover selected themes relevant for youth in Europe’s labour markets, today as well as in the coming decade.

This wave of publications deals with specific and well-known issues faced by youth in four accessible and informative Policy Briefs, compiled by students from the London School of Economics (LSE). In the first contribution, Eugénie Delzenne shows that economic hardship, partly resulting from reduced legal and financial protections, induced youth emigration during Europe’s economic crisis, which more fiscal space for the Eurozone’s member states could help prevent in the future. Next, Henri Ebelin explains the nature and challenges of the prominent case of the platform economy (e.g. Uber, TaskRabbit, Amazon Mechanical Turk), arguing for reforms that extend social rights and protections to vulnerable workers, many of whom are young. In the next Policy Brief, Alessandra Sciarra highlights that mental health is inherently linked to working life, which often induces insecurity and pressures for today’s youth, and thus advocates for policy that avoids normalising insecurity and instead ensures decent prospects. Finally, Justus Seuferle explains what lies behind changing forms and pricing of higher education, pointing out their social and cultural risks, and also argues how to contain them and revitalise education’s democratic value.

Together with the previous publications, the Working Group’s outputs paint a picture of urgency and showcase the need for more comprehensive, equitable support for youth in the labour market. Shining a spotlight on selected issues, the students’ contributions show that new economic thinking is required in many respects to broaden objectives and to move towards decent jobs for Europe’s youth.

 

Election Briefs

Policy Brief 19-06

Eugénie Delzenne

London School of Economics

Labour Market Reforms and Youth Emigration: why the road to hell may be paved with good intentions

 

  • The economic crisis led to significant youth emigration from countries most affected, but to varying degrees.

  • Increased employment flexibility combined with low levels of protection put the Spanish youth under pressure, more so than in Italy where flexicurity was the preferred option.
  • More fiscal space in the EU would support decent jobs and better social insurance devices for the youth in times of economic hardship.

 

Policy Brief 19-07

Henri Ebelin

London School of Economics

Social Protection of Platform Workers in the European Union

 

  • Platform workers are rather young in general and their working conditions depend on the nature of work, a platform’s model as well as their reliance on these earnings.
  • The insecurity experienced in certain parts of the platform labour market creates important challenges for existing national systems of employment law and social protection.
  • To implement meaningful reform in employment classification and social security, policy makers should look to redress the imbalance of power in some sectors of the platform economy.

 

Policy Brief 19-08

Alessandra Sciarra

London School of Economics

Insecure and Stressed: Youth Struggle in Europe’s Labour Markets

 

  • Insecurity and precarity at work can challenge mental health.
  • At EU level, coordination promotes action on mental health.
  • Employment and social policy should support job security and decent prospects for youth.

 

Policy Brief 19-09

Justus Seuferle

London School of Economics

To sell a holy cow: Commodification of education as a social and cultural risk 

 

  • The growing commodification of tertiary education entails social and cultural risks.
  • Price tags on study diverge significantly across the EU.
  • Higher education should create value beyond the market.