3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market
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Vocational integration period (Berufseingliederungszeit)
The Vocational integration period enables young people to seek work after their apprenticeship or degree.
During their vocational integration period they can pursue paid activity.
In April 2013, the European Council passed the Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee. The aim of the Youth Guarantee is that all young people under 25 years of age – whether registered at the Job Center of the German-speaking Community (Arbeitsamt der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft) or not – will receive a concrete and high quality offer within four months of the end of their training or after they have become unemployed. This offer – of a job, a training place, an internship or further training – should be tailored to the personal situation and needs of the person.
In the German-speaking Community the Job Center has been charged with the coordination of implementing the Youth Guarantee. The roll-out plan for the German-speaking Community was drawn up at the end of 2013 in close cooperation between the cabinet of the employment minister and the Job Center. Also the participating partner organisations like Institute for Training and Further Education of Medium-Sized Businesses (Institut für Aus- und Weiterbildung des Mittelstandes, IAWM), Department for Self-determined Living (Dienststelle für Selbstbestimmtes Leben, DSL), various departments in the ministry as well as a range of other organisations/institutions in the areas of youth, teaching and social partners have been integrated into the development of the plan.
After the EU Commission analysed the Belgian action plans and made a range of recommendations for improving the plans, in March 2014 the adjusted action plans were submitted. Alongside actions and projects that are to directly promote the training and employment of young people (integration concept of the Job Center, entry placements, JuGa project of the department for young people with disabilities, module teaching for apprentices with learning difficulties, the creation of the Kaleido service etc.), the EU also attaches great importance to structural reforms. In this area for the German-speaking Community e.g. the introduction of skills validation or the reinforcement of the synergies between professional/technical education and training in SMEs was defined as a project.
The 2013 Council Recommendation was eventually replaced by the Council Recommendation of 30 October 2020 on A Bridge to Jobs – Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee and replacing the Council Recommendationof 22 April 2013 on establishing a Youth Guarantee.
AktiF and AktiF Plus
As of January 1 2019, two support measures named "AktiF" and "AktiF Plus" are being implemented in the German-speaking Community. If an employer recruits a person belonging to one of the defined target groups, they are financially supported by the AktiF or AktiF PLUS grants during 2 or 3 years respectively (payment of degressive lump sums by the Ministry of the German-speaking Community). Among the defined target groups, there are young people up to the age of 26 years without either final secondary school-examination or journeyman's certificate (one target group) and young people up to the age of 26 years with either final secondary school-examination or journeyman's certificate who have been unemployed for at least six months (another target group). If non-employed jobseekers meet two or more of the following criteria, they entitle the employer to the (higher) AktiF PLUS allowance:
- a reduced capacity for work
- at least 24 months of unemployment
- neither final secondary school-examination nor journeyman's certificate
- neither German nor French language skills
The corresponding legal basis is the Decree on Aktif/Aktif PLUS Employment Promotion of 28th of May 2018 (Dekret zur Aktif/Aktif PLUS Beschäftigungsförderung vom 28.05.2018).
Vocational guidance for young people
The Job Center offers specific vocational guidance for young people. On its website, numerous job descriptions are freely available. Professional films provide further insights into the profession. In addition, there is information from Belgium and foreign countries about the path that leads to the profession: School, apprenticeship, training, study, etc. The Job Center publishes on an annual basis a brochure "Education for Students and Young People in the German-speaking Community of Belgium" (Ausbildung für Schüler und Jugendliche in der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft), which is sent to the schools, to Kaleido Eastbelgium (Kaleido Ostbelgien) and to interested parents and young people. The website of the Job Center provides additional information on education possibilities and study possibilities both in Belgium and abroad. These informations are being updated regularly. In cooperation with Kaleido, the schools, parents and other stakeholders, the career counselling actively assists in the preparation of career choices: it organises a variety of class animations in the schools, gives lectures and participates in information events.
Since the 2017-2018 school year, the Job Center has also organised a specific information evening on the topic of "social professions" at its premises in Eupen. Due to Corona, the event could not take place in 2020. Instead, a collective information session was organised on the subject of "Access to medical studies", which was attended by 15 people.
The organisation of the labour market in Belgium is a federal matter. The same federal legislation applies to the Flanders, but also to the French and German-speaking Communities. Education in Belgium is compulsory until the age of 18. However, from the age of 15 a pupil can choose to combine part-time vocational schooling with a part-time job. In 2006, the Federal Government set up a system of financial rewards to prevent the drop-out of these part-time students (through start premiums) and to encourage companies to employ them (via internship premiums). Other measures protect minors from heavy job demands. For young people between 18 and 25 years old, specific legislation makes their entry into labour market easier: certain employers are obliged to hire a number of young people and labour costs are reduced when hiring young starters with fewer qualifications/opportunities. Belgium also has a youth vacation law, the legal basis of which is the Royal Regulation amending the Royal Regulation of 25 November 1991 regulating unemployment in the context of youth vacations of 13th of June 2001 (Arrêté royal modifiant l'arrêté royal du 25 novembre 1991 portant réglementation du chômage dans le cadre de vacances jeunes). The number of vacation days in Belgium is determined by the time you have worked the year before. Because young people often start work when the calendar year is almost over, this would mean they would have almost no vacation days in the year after that. The youth vacation law allows young people to have extra vacation in return for a small income reduction. Within the Belgian framework, the German-speaking Community also pursues a particular labour market policy that aims to inform and ‘activate’ people.
Young people receive counselling and guidance services adapted to their individual situation. (e.g. individual job training in enterprises, Schnupperwochen, …) Moreover, the German-speaking Community via its autonomous arrangement with regard to education, (vocational) training and employment within the Belgian framework, strongly supports and refines the “dual-system”, which comprises education at a training centre and working as an apprenticeship in smaller or bigger enterprises at the same time.
Additionally, the German-speaking Community tends to enhance permeability of curricula, so that pupils from different schooling and vocational training systems can get access to higher education.
REK I: Facilitating the transitions into the labour market
It is very important to enable young people to make a seamless transition from school into work as this life phase is as sensitive as it is decisive. The project "Facilitating the transitions into the labour market" (Erleichterung der Übergänge am Arbeitsmarkt) is a part project of the future project "Alliance for Economy and Labor" (Bündnis für Wirtschaft und Arbeit) as described in volume 3 of the Regional Development Concept (Regionales Entwicklungskonzept Band 3, REK Band 3). It includes measures to actively support young people both in the preparation for the choice of profession and also in their entry into the world of work. Children must already be prepared at their level for the world of work at primary school. Company visits and practical phases in everyday school life play an important role in this. Schools and pupils are thus sensitised to the needs of the world of work. Up to now only selectively organised by school, company visits and company contacts must be systematised in future.
Transitions also concern the transition from unemployment into employment. It is important to take care that the job-seekers “close to the labour market” are placed in jobs again as quickly as possible as spending a long time unemployed reduces the changes of reintegration. For this, effective job placement is needed. The findings and recommendations for action gained from an external organisational analysis of the Job Center of the German-speaking Community are implemented within the budgetary possibilities.
The cooperation between private and public job placement is optimised in favour of job-seekers by for example linking together information about job vacancies. The same applies to the collaboration with the public welfare centres as well as the Department for Self-determined Living (Dienststelle für Selbstbestimmtes Leben, DSL). A smooth transition between the system must be ensured.
For acquiring employability by further education and training the qualification opportunities must be expanded. Here cooperation with the various sector funds should be consolidated with the support of the local social partners.
REK I: Adaptation of the labour market to the changing demographic structure of the working population
In its first Regional Development Concept (Regionales Entwicklungskonzept, REK I), the government of the German-speaking Community launched a specific project to improve the “Adaptation of the labour market to the demographical structure of the labour force” (Anpassung des Arbeitsmarktes an die sich wandelnde demografische Struktur der Erwerbsbevölkerung).
Demographic change is one of the most significant societal challenges of the future. In the next fifteen years the age profile of the workers will change noticeably and new customer needs will arise. It is important to face demographic change now to also in future be competitive and able to act. The planned measures concern businesses, workers and job-seekers equally. Also newcomers and migrants will play an important role in this connection.
Particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises regard should be paid to the age pyramid of employees. On the one hand the renewal of the members of staff who are just about to retire is dependent on this. On the other hand the transfer of professional experience from older workers to younger ones can thus be organised.
The transformation of the labour market requires the adaptation of the job offers both for job-seekers and for employers. For older job-seekers adapted qualifications must be offered. In addition the funding criteria for job creation schemes must be adapted to need. Specific groups of job-seekers, such as women returners, should be specifically supported. Also adapted job offers must be developed for newcomers and migrants. For the employers, after an awareness-raising and consultation phase, corresponding further training offers can likewise be created.
In Belgium and the German-speaking Community, there exists the system of day nannies/childminders. In the German-speaking Community, childminders take care of children from 0-12, when parents are working. A person who wants to work as a childminder in the German-speaking Community has two options for being allowed to do so. Either she joins the regional center for toddler care (Regionalzentrum für Kleinkindbetreuung, RZKB) or she works as an independent childminder and agrees to apply for that job at Kaleido Ostbelgien (which will be responsible for guiding and supervision). Childminder jobs are partially subsidised and parents also pay their share of the fee to the childminder. This gives the childminder a proper income. One objective of the government of the German-speaking Community is to meet 100% of the demand for childcare. In the German-speaking Community there are several options for childcare. To reach the "100%-objective", there is a need for optimisation and further development of the childcare system in the German-speaking Community. In relation to that there also is a need for additional childminders. So public information on the profile of a childminder will be improved.
In 2023, 29,372,000 euros have been earmarked in the budget of the German-speaking Community for the area of employment.
For exercising its tasks the job centre has incurred expenditure of 7,838,733 euros in 2021.
By 2019 a sum of around 31.5 million euros has been agreed to implement and coordinate the 24 future and 3 horizontal projects of the Regional Development Concept II. The Regional Development Concept “Ostbelgien leben 2025” (“East Belgium Life 2025) contains long-term visions that are intended to shape life in the German-speaking Community sustainably, innovatively and inclusively for the population.
The costs arising from the overall management of the Regional Development Concept, the global coordination and communication of the concept as well as associated scopes of functions amount to just under EUR 380,000. Apart from in the period between 2010 and 2014 the European Social Fund does not share in co-financing these costs.
Regional Development Concept
During the first implementation phase of the Regional Development Concept, there was the project "Further development of the employment policy instruments" (Weiterentwicklung der beschäftigungspolitischen Instrumente). This project was followed up in the second implementation phase with the project "increasing employment and securing skilled workers" (Beschäftigung steigern und Fachkräfte sichern) and in the third and final implementation phase, lasting until 2024, with the project "Learning in the company" (Lernen im Betrieb).
The further development of the employment policy instruments demands as much decisiveness as careful consideration. So that this balancing act succeeds, cooperation with professional institutes and the conciliation of the social partners is indispensable. The developments of the economy also have far-reaching consequences for the labour market requiring new working methods. The demands on the employment service have changed and its organisation must therefore be reconsidered. A renewed alliance for work and employment (Gemeinschaftliches Ausbildungs- und Beschäftigungsbündnis, GABB IV) between the government of the German-speaking Community and the Economic and Social Council (Wirtschafts- und Sozialrat) may show profitable stimuli for employment and further training. Existing instruments for observing and analysing the labour market can be further harmonised and coordinated. At the current time it cannot yet be foreseen how the institutional landscape of Belgium will develop. What is sure however is that it will change and this change will have wide-ranging consequences for the future arrangement of employment policy.