The Novia Salcedo Foundation (NSF) dedicates a lot of thought to the fundamental aspects behind what it considers quality employment. Such a concept is directly related to the organization of companies and to the social context on which they are based. According to ESADE professor, Josep Maria Lozano, it is impossible to make a business viable without attending to the conditions of the people and of the country in which it operates, and conversely, the survival of a company depends not only on the economic context, but also on the need for skilled workers. As in any ecosystem, this relationship of interdependence between the key players (entities, people, education, administration…) is based on a very fragile balance. “We are paying the price of considering that businesses were the lesser evil, or something that needed criticising, when no country can do well unless their companies are doing well“, says the director general of NSF, Begoña Etxebarria. However, she then takes a very critical view of the Spanish corporate culture. “We need a total change. Employers should consider managing their companies with intelligence because some are well managed while others are only taking the short-term into account. Intangible aspects (leadership styles, whether people are happy with their jobs and think that they are contributing to the success of the company, life-long training…) are what distinguish good businesses from bad ones, not their products or funding. We shall not have quality youth employment unless we address all of these aspects; anything else will lead to uncertainty”, she predicts.

directora n salcedo 7The educational model does not help to bring businesses and students together. In her opinion, the experience of northern and central European countries should be the role model we need to follow where, “from the age of 16, boys and girls usually spend one day a week or a week’s holiday in a company to become familiar with production processes”. In addition, the head of Novia Salcedo demands a type of education in which children “learn to do things” as well as “learn to think, coexist and solve problems.” The requirements when young people access the job market should adapt to their lack of experience. “Adaptation should be gradual, patient, but neither the market nor the governments appreciate patience in companies“, she regrets. Another way of gaining work experience is to combine studies and work, which is a formula that has never been very popular in Spain. Helena Orella, coordinator of the international campaign that NSF is promoting to declare a Youth Employment Decade between 2019 and 2018, recalls that during the year she spent in England with an Erasmus scholarship “almost all my colleagues had a job, whether it was in a bar, in a bookstore or as a gardener”. She also expresses a desire shared by the entire Novia Salcedo team: “As this is an initiative of the Basque civil society, we would like the International Youth Employment Office to be based in Bilbao”.

In short, a problem as complex as youth unemployment is affected by countless factors. According to the ILO, of the 6 million unemployed people aged 18 to 25 in Europe -14 million if we also include those who are not studying – 50% live in Spain, including 73,000 Basque people. Can these figures be reduced if the EU insists on austerity as the only recipe to overcome the crisis?