Let young people do work that fits

Create contexts for young people’s work rather than attempting to force them into jobs where there are none that offer future prospects! The backdrop here is not only booming unemployment, but also foreseen shrinking workforce in the future, the latter being a further incentive to make better use of the talent and energy that younger people have. The way Denmark works “flexicurity” it is by trying to keep them in the employment market, not the job market, focusing on flexibility of hiring and firing, coupled with activation policies to maintain job search incentives of the unemployed. This actionable is plan to recalibrate safety nets at local levels, thus incorporating local variables: combine volunteering with lesser paid work to discourage people to live by state-financed unemployment; make it easier for people to apply for small subsidies in return for a good record of informal/volunteer work that they choose to do.

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The downside of the Danish model

The Danish model, while flexible, is still pretty faulty. While on social welfare you’re obliged to take any job they tell you to. There’s a scandal going on right now because some people are sent out to repackage sweets and adjust the expiration date so they can be sold instead of thrown out. But as a welfare recipient you will be denied your subsidy if you decline the job. And while on unemployment welfare you can take internships in order to establish contact with the job market. The idea is good because research shows that companies are more likely to hire an intern permanently than a “stranger” who sends in a CV. The downside, however, is that Danish companies are not above taking advantage of that opportunity thus continually hiring new unpaid interns every quarter in order to save money on real salaries.

Conversely, companies can opt to hire you full-time but only pay half your salary, the rest being supplemented by the state. This arrangement is on offer for a limited period of time (I think up to 9 months) and is an incentive for companies to hire more people while at the same time allowing the employers the time to “test drive” the employees. The question is, if companies have both options (free interns vs. paying half salaries) whether they opt for the free work instead… especially now, when unemployment is so high?


Looking for new ways or building on top of existing ones?

The thing is most of these options don’t seem to give room for people who work their own projects.

Here’s what I found on Germany’s mini jobs (tax free, flexibible, but low wage and sometimes imposed labor).

"German “mini-jobs” are just what it says on the tin: precarious employment for up to €400 (£315) per month, likely to be extended to €450 in 2013. Whether a “mini-job” is an additional or a main job, “mini-jobbers” are exempted from tax and social insurance payments for earnings of up to €400, and employers’ social insurance contributions are considerably below those for equivalent regular jobs […]

While admitting that the scheme is costly for the state due to the exemptions from income tax, those advocating the scheme argue that it has not replaced regular employment and that increased labour market flexibility (meaning lower unit wage costs) has been instrumental in promoting German international competitiveness since 2003.

… empirical evidence to show that “mini-jobs” are a growing low-wage trap with little prospect of longer-term transition, even into low-skill employment. Splitting regular jobs into mini ones is becoming more common. And “mini-jobbers” tend to be paid considerably less than the equivalent standard hourly wage for a given activity, nothwithstanding Germany’s anti-discrimination laws that explicitly prohibit this.

'Mini-jobs' don't work in Germany, and they won't work in Britain | Stephanie Blankenburg | The Guardian (Aug 2012)