High unemployment among young people in Switzerland is forcing regional authorities across the country to find new ways of reversing the trend.This content was published on March 25, 2005 - 14:41
The situation is particularly acute in the southern canton of Ticino where the jobless rate for 20-24 year olds stands at 9.8 per cent – more than double the national average.
According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), around 30,000 young people are out of work.
The jobless rate for 15-24 year olds has mushroomed over the past four years. In 2001 the figure was 1.8 per cent; last year it climbed to 5.1 per cent.
Economics minister Joseph Deiss hosted talks with the four main political parties in Bern last month to try to come up with solutions.
They agreed to a raft of measures, including support for employers that offer apprenticeship places and extra funding for training.
A week earlier a delegation from the Committee against Youth Unemployment had handed the minister an open letter demanding action.
Those in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country have been worst hit, with many young apprentices ending their training with few job prospects.
"[The problem is] businesses are having no trouble recruiting qualified and experienced – but cheaper – workers from across the border in Italy," said Ticino parliamentarian Meinrado Robbiani.
He said this "worrying development" meant that young people lacking professional experience in the Italian-speaking canton had little or no chance of finding work.
At the beginning of March, Robbiani submitted a seven-point plan to the cantonal parliament aimed at combating unemployment.
It includes drawing up contracts between the authorities and local businesses, and arranging work placements with firms in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and abroad.
Last year the canton sent out officials to knock on the doors of 6,522 companies. They persuaded a quarter of them to set up 2,662 apprenticeship places.
The Geneva authorities have announced they are to set up a second programme of so-called "motivation classes".
These are available to school-leavers, who are not entitled to claim unemployment benefit for six months after finishing their studies.
The classes, launched in canton Valais in 1994, are designed to fill gaps in their education and provide hands-on experience in a number of trades, such as carpentry and engineering.
According to Yves Perrin, head of employment in Geneva, around 60 per cent of those attending the programme find an apprenticeship place.
The German-speaking part of Switzerland is also feeling the pinch.
During the early 1990s young people in this part of the country fared much better in terms of jobs than colleagues elsewhere. But the gap has closed and today they are no better off.
Regional authorities are now pooling employment resources, as well as introducing "mentoring" and "job coaching" schemes.
The Catholic charity, Caritas, has introduced a mentoring programme specifically for young immigrants, who are twice as likely to be out of work than young Swiss.
swissinfo with agencies
In 2001 the jobless rate among 15-24 year olds stood at 1.8%.
In 2004 this figure rose to 5.1%, against a national average of 3.9%.
Some language regions are worse affected than others: German-speaking (4.7%); French-speaking (6.2%) and Italian-speaking (6.6%).
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