PERC Youth Conference: New forms of Youth Employment

On the 8-9 of September Pan-European Regional Council of ITUC and its Youth Committee held an international conference for young trade unionists to debate new forms of employment for youth. The conference was hosted by AHIK (Azerbaijan) and gathered representatives of unions from Albania, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The conference was opened by Sattar Mekhbaliyev, AHIK President. He greeted the audience and described the basics of the youth policy in Azerbaijan and also outlined the challenges trade unions face when dealing with the youth related issues. The representative of Azeri Ministry of labour gave a deeper perspective into youth employments issues, underlining that the plunging oil prices and devaluation of local currency weakened the economy and consequently affected the youth unemployment rates that are now reaching 9,9%.

Anna Salnikova, programmes coordinator in ITUC-PERC, continued the session with an overview of global state of affairs with youth employment and challenges faced by young people coming to the labour market and also ITUC position in this regard. Also she has pointed that young people have to embark on non-standard labour relations involuntarily and offered to share in round table discussion the existing union practices to deal with it and to share country experience.

Most of the countries share a similar set of problems: education does not match the demands of the labour market, liberalization of labour codes, working poor, bogus self employment, precarious working conditions and low union density. Denmark is a notable exception with a union density of around 80% and a strong system of CBA’s that replace labour code.

The first day of the conference included a group work: challenges and opportunities for unions with new employment forms, ways to protect youth labour rights, moderated by Roman Zaytsev, member of PERC Youth Committee. The findings of the groups may be summed up as follows:

• The state along with trade unions must actively regulate segments of market, where there is non-standard employment, by means of legislation, negotiations and control.
• Raise awareness on trade union activities and legislation among young people .
• Modernize the trade unions to better match the expectations of young workers.
• Increase presence in the social media via campaigning to reach out to groups of workers not covered by unions
• New employment forms are both potential challenges and potential opportunities to increase membership.

The debates on the second day were on the digitalization of the economy and the potential union response in this regard as well as organising in newly emerged employment arrangements and sectors. Goda Neverauskaite, ITUC-PERC policy advisor made a presentation based on ETUC position in this regard. While in group work moderated by Olesia Briazgunova the unionists dealt with a topic of efficient organizing of new employment forms. The suggestions made by participants can be summarized as follows:

• Define the target sectors and groups for the future organizing work.
• Develop specific studying methodology.
• Collect scattered analytical data.
• Explore studies in the adjacent fields.

PERC Youth Committee President, Tatiana Marian, has drawn the conclusions that the topics discussed proved to be very challenging due to their novelty. The parties involved in discussions had no complete understanding of the situation, due to the lack of dedicated studies on the national level and due to the lack of awareness of possibly existing studies in this field. Thus there were suggestions to conduct deeper research of these topics to serve as a basis for further strategy.
In the new times trade unions have to adapt to the rapidly changing world, so as to be able to adequately respond to the challenges it presents. The role of the trade unionists is to bridge the gap between the new and traditional methods and ideas to make sure the rights of workers are duly protected.