LAB meeting, Greece

Ahead of the meeting, the three stakeholders of the local advisory board (the Observatory on Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute (General Confederation of Greek Labour), the NGO ‘ARSIS”, and the representative of the Municipality of Komotini (Thrace) were briefly informed about the aims of the STYLE-project, the role of the Greek Lab in the research activities in which the Greek partner institution is involved under the STYLE-project, and the research schedule on policy transfer and innovation. The local stakeholders were asked to express their views on the problem of youth unemployment and social exclusion and the impact of the financial and economic crisis in Greece, and comment on policy options and measures.

The specific issues raised embrace: the structural causes of youth unemployment in Greece that reflect institutional rigidities and weaknesses in STW transitions as well as education / labour market mismatches; the crisis effects on unemployment among young people with different levels of educational attainment; the fact that a growing number even of young people who could get integrated into the labour market prior to the crisis, are at risk of prolonged unemployment and inactivity with “scarring effects” on their careers; the overall changes in industrial relations and wage setting under the “bailout programme” leading to increasing flexibility with no security; the serious problems of job losses at the local level (with en emphasis on the municipality of Komotini); the high degree of centralization of decision-making with regard to labour market policy that leaves no room for local initiative in policy innovation; and the major obstacles to policy learning and transfer.

The main conclusions obtained were that, since the eruption of the crisis, most of the policy measures introduced were externally determined by the “troika” (the three international creditors). No significant changes were introduced in the policy-making machinery, which remains highly centralized. There are significant institutional barriers to policy learning. The balk of the labour market policies are supported by the European Social Fund and strictly follow eligibility criteria set by the Commission Services. There is scant public debate (among relevant stakeholders) on issues of policy transfer and adaptation so as to promote successful innovations in policy process, implementation and outcomes with regard to tackling unemployment. Rarely, if ever, evaluation research has been carried out with a view to highlight and document what works or not and why, and to feed results into the policy process. Also reference has been made to the Youth Guarantee and new legislation for introducing a dual training system.

Main issues of debate

Vulnerable groups
The representative of the NGO “ARSIS” (Association for the Social Support of Youth) briefly focused on the activities by this NGO addressed to vulnerable groups of children and youth (social support to youth in difficulty or danger, and advocacy services for youth rights). The emphasis was on measures for preventing youth marginalisation, on advocacy strategies that defend youth rights, and on social support interventions addressed to disadvantaged youth and their families (in the youth support centres operated by ARSIS and in the context of the streetwork carried out by the team of volunteers). The dramatically increasing rate of child and youth poverty since the eruption of the crisis in Greece (affecting about 45% of young people 15-29 yrs in 2012, the second highest rate after Bulgaria and Romania) creates serious disadvantage at an early age, which can have detrimental effects on educational attainment and labour market integration in later stages of the life-cycle.

Vocational Training / Mobility
The stakeholders stressed the fact that the size of enrolment on a vocational course – vis-à-vis general education has persistently been small. Also they referred to the obstacles regarding the development of an effective partnership framework between trade unions, employers associations, local authorities and other relevant bodies for designing, implementing and managing STW transition policies. They pointed to the need for significant reform and innovation in the planning machinery, which could facilitate decentralization in policy decision-making, promote networking at the regional/local level and establish institutional mechanisms for systematically forecasting and addressing skills needs. Such reforms could act as triggers for innovation in the content and structure of vocational training and in skills supply. The prospects of developing a dual system of vocational training (on the basis of Law 4186 of 2013, “Restructuring Secondary Education”) was raised too, in parallel with the need to modernize the accreditation system for both formal and non-formal learning.

Innovation – Youth policies
The Youth Guarantee may provide an opportunity for developing integrated, result-oriented interventions. However, it was stressed, that this is not enough for tackling youth unemployment. Reservations were expressed as to whether the YG can reach those mostly hard to be reached. Moreover, so far, its formulation and implementation has followed the centralized tradition, with no significant involvement by regional and local authorities.
Another plank of ongoing reform, briefly mentioned, concerns the “Re-engineering Programme for Public Employment Services”. This is related closely to issues of partnership/cooperation and the strengthening of the role of local actors (promote co-operation between education/training providers, career guidance providers, municipalities, employers etc). However, the reform plan is at a very incipient stage.

Location: Observatory on Economic and Social Developments, Labour Institute (Conference venue), Athens
Date: 20 November 2014
Participants:
Elias Ioakeimoglou
Labour Institute, Greek General Confederation of Labour
Dimitris Gartsonis
Municipality of Komotini (Thrace)
Katerina Poutou
NGO “ARSIS”
Maria Petmesidou, Periklis Polyzoidis
STYLE, Democritus University of Thrace

The meeting took place in the context of a workshop on “Child poverty and youth(un)employment and social exclusion” co-organized by Democritus University of Thrace, the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments (INE-GSEE) and CROP (Comparative Research on Poverty Programme), in Athens (19-21 November 2014). In this context we benefited from the participation of invited speakers in a round table of the workshop. In the panel participated also: Jackie O’Reilly (STYLE-project coordinator), George Moshos (Greek Ombudsman for Children), Enrique Delamonica (UNICEF) and Alberto Cimadamore (CROP).

2 Comments

  1. Reply

    It was a real opportunity to be part of the Lab meeting and present our policy and activities in such an experienced and skilful audience. Furthermore, the experience and the knowledge which it was gained by our participation to such an event, can be transferred o our municipal officials and policy makers

    • Reply

      Dear Mr, Gartsonis, please let me add that your personal contribution was very significant!

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