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Helping young adults avoid the poverty trap

Many school-leavers fail to enter the job market and fall through the net Keystone

Welfare and social institutions have called for coordinated efforts to prevent young adults from falling into the poverty trap.

This content was published on January 3, 2007 - 12:11

A large number of young people are dependent on welfare, with 18-25 year olds comprising the second largest group drawing benefits.

The Conference of Social Institutions wants to increase social provision, including apprenticeship positions for teenagers with learning and other difficulties.

On Wednesday it proposed extending compulsory schooling or training by two years to 18 in a bid to make up for shortfalls in education and counter higher rates of unemployment among young adults.

"Welfare benefits and social aid do little to help these youngsters because it all comes too late," said the organisation's president Walter Schmid. "By the time we intervene, they have already suffered failures or been turned down a number of times."

Job prospects for young adults who have neither worked nor pursued an education between the end of compulsory school at age 16 and their 20th birthday are not good, he added.

Just under four per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds, mainly in urban areas, draw on welfare, making it the largest group after children to receive some kind of social aid. According to the organisation, this is because these people have failed to enter the job market.

Schmid said the strategy being put forward would require the involvement of social institutions, as well as the economy, the educational authorities and the state.

Integration

Social aid experts also recommend individual support for youngsters about to enter the job market.

Other proposals include increased involvement of parents, pre-school screening and special efforts to further integration of the children of immigrants.

Experts warned that integration problems for young foreigners – a sign of missing social and communication skills - must be headed off early.

They added that the measures proposed are the most efficient means of helping the target group, despite the high costs.

They could also prove much cheaper in the longer term, as they would keep welfare costs down and, in many cases, also reduce disability benefits.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss Conference of Social Institutions is an association of both private and public welfare services.

Its aim is to promote comprehension and collaboration among its members, as well as serve as a lobby group for social aid specialists.

It sets the norms for social aid in Switzerland and defines the instruments used by welfare services all over the country.

The organisation also carries out research concerning social policies.

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Key facts

In 2004 about 220,000 people received welfare benefits, the equivalent of 3% of the population in Switzerland.
Nearly half of them lived in a city.
43.7% of welfare beneficiaries were foreigners.
63% of young people without a professional qualification depend on welfare payments.

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