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Conference on the European Social Fund: "European Social Fund: Contribution to the Inclusion of Young People into the Labour Market"

As the managing authority for structural funds and the cohesion fund, the Government Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Local Self-Government and Regional Policy, which is led by Minister Dr Ivan Žagar, organised a conference on the European Social Fund titled “European Social Fund: Contribution to the Inclusion of Young People into the Labour Market”, which took place on 11 and 12 June 2008 in Maribor in the framework of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The conference took place in a period of efficient economic and social development of the European Union and discussed issues of young people and the labour market which are essential for Slovenia and other EU Member States. We are witnessing rapid changes in the economy and society, to which we can respond only by continuing education and acquiring new knowledge, which is the best way of guaranteeing successful inclusion into the labour market and maintaining employment.

The contributions of the speakers, responses from the participants, formal and informal discussions and especially the issues of and response from young people at the final round table prove that the issue under discussion is indeed very topical, and further discussion on the issue is needed to find the proper response to the challenges in the future. If we want to ensure young people an appropriate position within society, utilise their intellectual and work potential, and realise the objectives of the basic national and European documents, including the Lisbon Strategy, we need to take concrete actions. One important instrument which enables us to achieve this is the European Social Fund – the oldest European fund, which the Member States may avail themselves of to develop human resources and thus address the issue of young people, especially for an easier and more efficient inclusion of young people into the labour market.

Already in the programme period 2000–2006 the EU Member States developed a great number of models, instruments, programmes and various projects in the field of the European Social Fund, which successfully addressed and tried to solve the issue. This is also evidenced by the numerous examples of best practices which we have published in the special publication issued before the conference. More such programmes and projects will be implemented in the future, when we will need to strive for an even greater exchange of best practices by taking into account the specific characteristics of each individual Member State – the opportunities and tools for which are provided by individual operational programmes.

We must not forget that merely one element of policy in addressing this complex issue is not enough – quite the opposite, coordination and complementarity of policies at all levels, namely European, national, regional and local, is needed for the development of young people. Sectoral policies also need to be coordinated and complementary: employment and education policy, economic, social and health policy. We will thus ensure the development of young people, while the desire of young people to enhance their participation in formulating the mentioned policies also needs to be considered.

Numerous challenges lie before us in the coming years: the coherence and synergy of all policies which can contribute to a better position for young people within society, use of the principle of trans-nationality in the European Social Fund in the new programme period, ensuring the innovativeness, sustainability and openness of the programmes or projects, as well as cooperation of all the participating partners (policy makers, social partners, non-governmental organisations and especially associations of young people) and their co-formulation of adequate policies and measures for realising these policies.

Among other things, the discussion during the conference showed that the European Social Fund needs to be further developed in the direction of simplifying procedures, which would enable the faster inclusion of young people into the programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund. We should also strive for:

  • an “open” European Social Fund in the sense of early inclusion and development of programmes which directly and indirectly influence the labour market;
  • investing in the development and modernisation of educational programmes and training programmes, including improving the attractiveness and efficiency of vocational education, which provides faster employment;
  • providing more equal opportunities in accessing education from the geographical viewpoint, as well as from the viewpoint of a different social situation – we will thus contribute to eliminating social inequalities and equalising employment opportunities, as well as reducing regional disparities;
  • promoting the mobility of young people – geographically and between sectors, as well as regarding education and employment

We can realise all the aforementioned if we efficiently and in due time make use of the programmes and projects which can be developed and implemented in the framework of the European Social Fund. However, we must not forget that changes within society also bring changes of values. Numerous experts have found that the value of “being employed” is losing its significance due to the growing job insecurity. “Being employable” has become a new value – i.e. being competitive, interesting and able to adapt to the labour market, which can be achieved only through constant learning, training and acquiring informal competences, knowledge and skills.

It is important to be aware of the state of young people in the labour market and where the opportunities for the future lie, as well as of the fact that there are resources available which can help us realise these opportunities. How successful we are in doing so depends mainly on us.


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Date: 12.06.2008