Work schemes ‘may be a waste’

JobBridge and other schemes designed to help unemployed young people are in danger of being a very expensive waste of money, a report by the European Court of Auditors warned.

Work schemes ‘may be a waste’

The EU is putting €12.7bn into helping countries tackle unemployment among the under-25 age group, with up to 50% out of work in some countries, and more than 20% unemployed in Ireland.

The Youth Guarantee aims to get 7.5m people into training, education or employment, with additional funds provided by member states.

However, many countries, including Ireland, have not provided all the information on how the schemes are organised, or how much money is spent. Basic planning details, such as the cost per person and the expected participation rates have not been submitted, said Iliana Ivanova, auditor responsible for the report.

There should be a minimum set of criteria for schemes, ie JobBridge, stating the length of a contract, pay that is related to the national standard of living, and ensuring that jobs are sustainable, she said.

The report listed three major risks to the success of the scheme: Insufficient funding; jobs that do not lead to real employment and no proper monitoring to ensure the schemes deliver.

There was a danger that some schemes would simply be subsidising companies, providing cheap labour with no real training or chance of a real job at the end. This risk was identified in a recent National Youth Council report into JobBridge in which 44% of participants said they believed they were being used as cheap labour, while more than half said they were never or rarely treated like staff.

“The quality of the offer provided to young people is very important. Without a minimum set of requirements, there are risks that young people are offered jobs that do not help them improve their future medium- and long-term prospects,” said Ms Ivanova.

The report also warned that the €16.7bn — from the EU and member states, combined — to fund the scheme over five years will not be enough, given that the International Labour Organisation estimated the cost could reach €21bn a year.

The argument for implementing it properly, the report states, is the social cost on young people and their communities and the economic cost to countries through paying unemployment benefits and the foregoing of earnings and taxes, put at €153bn a year by the Dublin-based EU agency, Eurofound. The court is to study schemes in a number of countries in the next few months.

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