A new report published by the European Youth Forum highlights how co-operatives can help young people face today’s challenges. According to the report, 28.2% of young people are currently at the highest risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The forum is a platform for youth groups in Europe representing 102 national youth councils and international youth organisations.
The study highlights how the crisis has resulted in cuts to investment in education and social protection, increasing income inequality and the intergenerational divide. While in theory young people can benefit from almost all types of social protection programmes and policies, in practice they are unable to gain access to a number of these benefits and services. The report explains how, due to their age or unavoidable specificities of their circumstances, young people are discriminated against.
Youth unemployment remains a key concern for European states, with 20% of young people currently unemployed. The report argues that job creation efforts are largely missing from European and national policy measures.
“Young people today are increasingly facing long-term unemployment straight out of education, or are employed in internships or short-term work that does not allow them to contribute to the system and therefore cuts off their access to social protection”, reads a statement issued by the forum.
“Even where young people are eligible for income support, the support given is not enough to keep them above the poverty line. In OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, around 20% of young people live in poverty”.
As people-centred enterprises, co-operatives can enable young people to access their right to quality employment. The report notes that across Europe an increasing number of young freelancers or independent professionals are creating co-operative enterprises to secure their employment status. The co-operative model enables them to benefit from social security while enjoying the flexibility to develop their own activity.
One such example featured in the report is Coopaname, a co-operative set up in 2004 in France. The co-op is made up of around 750 people – freelancers and self-employed – who share common services such as accountancy, legal advice, support for the development of entrepreneurial activities, workspace and utilities.
The report also adds that “through support to the creation of co-operatives, public policies can contribute to young people’s security and autonomy”.