1st European Interns Day. Occupying Place Lux

Kampani

My name is Stylia, 24, freelance journalist, EU enthusiast and perspective MA student of the Political Economy of European Integration.

On Friday July 18th, around 200 interns, young professionals, officials from EU institutions, and civil society organisations, took over Place du Luxembourg to protest in front of the Parliament against interns’ precarious working conditions in Europe. The event was organised by the InternsGoPro, a social enterprise which works to boost youth employment in Europe by promoting quality internships. Together with InternsGoPro, other 20 NGOs from 8 different countries actively supported this initiative, among others, the European Youth Forum, European Alternatives, Brussels Interns NGO.

This was the second event dedicated to the ‘Interns Generation’ after the ‘Sandwich protest’, which took place almost a year ago at the same venue.

According to the European Commission 5.2 million young people were unemployed in the EU-28 area in May 2014. The youth unemployment particularly in the countries hit hardest by the financial crisis, is still over 50% with no real signs of recovery to come. The EU has adopted several measures so far to alleviate the pain of the younger generation, including the Youth Guarantee, the Youth Employment Initiative, has mobilised the European Social Fund, the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

Sotiria Theodoropoulou, Senior Researcher at the European Trade Unions Institute in Brussels, commenting on the event said: “Unemployment has risen in general across Europe, which also led to the rise of the youth unemployment. Things are different among the Member States. For instance Greece had traditionally higher youth unemployment rates, which has to do also with structural issues such as the transition from the educational system to the job market. As long as there is no job creation, the percentages will remain high no matter how many measures against the youth unemployment the EU is going to take. They might have a positive impact but not a significant one.”

So far there is no concrete solution when it comes to precarious jobs and unpaid internships, traineeships or vocational training which young Europeans are forced to undertake with a view to securing a normal job. Besides, the European Employment Ministers Informal meeting in Milan on (17-18 July) touched upon the issue of “youth drain” and not on policies to tackle youth unemployment.

But those young people are determined to bring a change by launching the first European Label for Quality Internships, which they developed throughout workshops in a 6 month-tour across Europe. With this Label they aim to allow young people to identify the good employers, on the basis of peer-to-peer internships ratings. In this order, quality internships shall boost employability and minimise the risk of undertaking an internship of poor learning quality.

Allan Päll from the European Youth Forum explained that there is need to adopt a standard Label for Quality internships as this will give more transparency among the interns, who will be able to rate their own employers.

Support from the MEPs
Commissioners as well as many MEPs have endorsed the initiative and sent encouraging messages or videos to the young people.

“Such initiative is even more important since it is taking place after a very important Strasbourg session where Members of the European Parliament have extensively discussed with outgoing Commissioner László Andor the issue of youth employment and conditions of young people in the labour market,” said the MEP Brando Benifei.

“All the initiatives, as the European Interns’ Day, aiming at restoring equality in the labour market for young people, must be supported. The temptation of some, basing their arguments on the crisis, to impose to young people lower job standards and conditions, are unacceptable. Quality jobs for young people is a right, as well as a strong lever to recover from the economic crises”, said the MEP Maria Arena

Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for ‪education‬, culture, Multilingualism and ‪Youth‬ also supported this initiative and participated in the panel discussion organized in the European Parliament. “‪Internships‬ are critical in bridging the gap between the world of education and the world of work, offering hands-on work experience. But they should never be a tool for exploitation of our youth. We need quality internships across Europe.”

Commissioner for ‪‎employment‬, social affairs and inclusion, Laszlo Andor said in a video message: “It is unacceptable that some ‪trainees‬ are currently exploited as free or cheap labour. Member States shall now implement the Quality Framework for Traineeships to ensure that trainees receive valuable training and experience to get a job, under good working conditions.

What’s next?
“Keeping the issue on the top of the agenda after the European Elections and the appointment of new Commissioners is one of our priorities. And it is very positive that the European Parliament adopted the resolution on youth employment, so our role from now on is to follow up and push for political change”, says Allan Päll.

While Sotiria Theodoropoulou is looking at the issue from the macroeconomic point of view: “The problem with the lasting unemployment is that it discourages the young people for a job and their relation with the job market is being traumatized. It is possible that when growth and recovery come, they will not be able to become absorbed and actively look for a job”.

There will be no overnight solutions, but at least such initiatives highlight the energy and motivation of younger people to bring a change.

(The article appeared earlier in NewEurope.)

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