Youth unemployment NEETs Social Economy Solutions – Meet the Social Innovators Project

Socialneet international online conference - speakers
Nicholas Clark Author

Author: Nicholas Clark

Forever young, I want to be forever young. These lyrics were chanted by many in 1984, a generation who had it quite good by most standards. It was typical to finish school and find a job, as shown by a survey revealing that 91% of baby boomers started full time work at a young age between 18-24. Whereas just 59% of millennials are now[1]. Being a young person looking to earn your keep is increasingly marred by stress, anxiety, and disappointment. Incredibly, 16.5% of people in the EU are not in education, employment or in training and are sometimes referred to as NEETs.

SOCIALNEET (a project funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund Youth Employment) had a recent international web conference. Sergi Morales Díaz 2n. Tinent d’Alcalde for the city of Mataró was present and key solutions to the problems facing today’s youth were discussed. During the event, Social Economy Europe’s Director, Victor Meseguer spoke and chaired the panel; where current EU level solutions (see below), as well as specific Member State (MS) solutions and lessons were communicated. It is exciting to see some of the proposed actions, especially those brought by the social economy!


As an example of certain challenges facing MS, in Greece in 2016 around 50% of those under 25 were unemployed, with an additional gender gap further increasing inequality for young women. Also at the SOCIALNEET event, Kaja Cunk, from Slovenia, Project manager at PiNA (an association which promotes socially responsible practices and strengthens the culture of dialogue) explained results from a recent survey: 

Key skills that young people are missing are critical thinking, the ability to take self-initiative, self-criticism and communication skills!

EU level help?

So, what is being done at EU level and in Greece to combat this enormous issue? Well the EU Commission has recently released a communication on the Next Generation EU, Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) whereby €672.5 billion will be released in loans and grants to aid recovery. It reads:

The situation of the youth requires particular attention. Every effort should be made to prevent unemployment and social exclusion from becoming entrenched and facilitate the adaptation of the labor market, called for by the green and digital transitions” – EU Commission

Additionally REACT-EU, the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe includes €55 billion of additional funds that will be made available to the 2014-2020 funds[1]. The funds can also be used to support job creation and youth employment measures.

The SURE instrument mobilises €81.4 billion to 15 Member States to protect citizens and mitigate the severely negative socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and could be used for social initiatives and young people.

[1] European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) as well as the European Fund for Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)

A bittersweet law in GREECE

Lessons can be learned from the critical situation in Greece where, at the Socialneet event, Stelios Katomeris (Vise Chairmain of the board from Union of the SSE entities in Attica) explained how a social  and solidarity economy law from 2016 (4430/16), with strong language failed to reach its potential!

The law gives certain groups of people exclusive access to contracts with public and local authorities and harmonises with the Directive on public procurement and repealing 2014/24 (article 36). The law explicitly concerns 1) vulnerable groups (persons with mobility and mental disabilities) and 2) Special groups (socially marginalised individuals including those suffering from long term unemployment and young unemployed individuals under 25). Unfortunately, this social  and solidarity economy law and the strategy to implement it did not succeed as the public procurement directive was not well applied in Greece. As a consequence, the law did not spread to society and was never explained to local authorities, municipalities and regions how to implement it effectively! Additionally, social cooperatives were not among those benefiting from the reserve contracts.

Pubic and local governing bodies are unaware what the terms “disadvantaged” and “marginalised” workers mean

This results in the law, that was originally in place to help give youth access to contracts, not achieving its intended outcome; simply because of  ignorance of definitions within law. Could this be happening in other MS?

So how can we combat this?

In order to combat youth unemployment in Greece in light of this law it is necessary to:

  1. Drive funding aimed at upskilling and reskilling NEETs – for example the European Social Fund (ESF) for NEET access to modern and innovative jobs
  2. Give NEETs access to existing and active social and solidarity economy entities
  3. Design programs to spread the social and solidarity economy to the wider public
  4. Make public and local authority contracts accessible to NEETs by elucidating the meaning and language of the laws.

Real Social Economy Solutions - Meet Social innovators

Social innovators project photo

The Social Innovators project benefits from a 1.110.831,78 € grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway from the €60 million EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment. Find out more from the above video.

The aim of the project is to:

  1. Make it easier for 25 000 young people to find a job
  2. Create 3500 jobs in NGOs and social enterprises
  3. Help 1800 young people start up their own business
Social innovators project hubs

The Social Innovators project helps young, unemployed people get practical training in civil society organisations through a combination of job shadowing, working in teams, practical tasks and individual projects they will learn skills in project management, advocacy and other areas! This increases their chances at getting a job! It is an informal educational programme helping to upskill socially responsible, employable young innovators. 

Let’s spread the word and help to create similar campaigns in your country!

 Check out Social innovators on Facebook

Nicholas Clark Author

Nicholas Clark


Keenly interested in human & social affairs and issues of sustainability. Having recently studied Human Ecology and worked in education for more than a decade, his writings revolve around how we can improve conditions and livelihoods for local communities through policy and action.


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