Young Workers in Recessionary Times: A Caveat (to continental Europe) to Reconstruct its Labour Law?

Michele Tiraboschi


The current debate taking place in continental Europe on the need to reform labour law to reduce the duality between labour market insiders and outsiders, thus giving new employment opportunities to young people seems to be, at its best, a consequence of the crisis, or at its worst, an excuse. The considerable emphasis placed on the power of legislation to reduce youth unemployment prevents real labour market problems from being clearly identified, thus reducing the scope to adopt more effective measures. Action is certainly required to help young people during the current crisis, yet interventions should not be exclusively directed towards increased flexibility and deregulation. This paper questions the “thaumaturgic power” wrongly attributed to legislative interventions and put forward a more holistic approach to solve the problem of youth employment, by focusing on the education systems, school-to-work transition and industrial relations. As a comparative analysis demonstrates, in order to effectively tackle the issue of youth employment, it is not enough to reform labour law. High quality education systems, apprenticeship schemes, efficient placement and employment services, cooperative industrial relations and flexible wage determination mechanisms are the key to success when it comes to youth employment, not only in times of recession.

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