One of the goals of the Lisbon Strategy is to increase EU productivity, through, among other means, full employment. The question is to what extent full employment is feasible in the fight against climate change, given the already extreme need for a both ecological and socially fair development.
To answer this question, we should first think about the current meaning of the concepts of work and employment, what employment we need and in what terms we need full employment.
The Lisbon Strategy was also one of the first papers of the Commission that expressly mentions youth. For that purposes, the Commission has issued a communication on the Full Participation of Youth in Education, Employment and in Society. The title seems cool, but the contents are not, especially if we look at what the Commission understands as “participating”, “education”, “employment” and “society”. According to the paper, “employment” means actually producing, the “society” is exclusively made up of companies and markets, and “education” is just a mean of learning… how to produce better.
The Commission is mainly devoted to improve the statistics of people dropping out of school and youth unemployment data. They set a series of goals, for example that every student has the possibility to do an internship within a maximum of six months after finishing their studies. The Commission does not mention whether such an internship should be paid or what social care the intern is entitled to. Internships are one of the most prominent forms of precarious work in Europe, but the Commission seems to be more concerned with providing a free labour force for companies.
They also want to increase the number of young people with a fixed contract. Do young people need a fixed contract? Under which conditions? And what do young people need? Given that we are quickly moving towards a knowledge-based economy, what young people need most is knowledge. The Commission does not talk much about improving education at all levels and for everybody, not only youngsters, let alone about providing free education for everybody, young people without work, adults wanting to be recycled or elders with a young heart.
Besides, education should not exclusively be a way of learning how to produce for the system. Education should also be a means for the emancipation and empowerment of youth, and a means to reinforce civil society. Education should help youngsters in their capacitybuilding, the understanding of multicultural societies and the resolution of conflicts. The participation of students in activities now considered extra-curricular should be taken into account and become a part of the curriculums of universities and schools.
Full employment, the increase of productivity or free interns are not the future of Europe if they are not considered from an environmentally and fair justice point of view. The European Commission should centre its policies rather on increasing the production and the excellence of knowledge within the EU, avoiding the unfair treatment by companies of unexperienced students. The Spanish government has recently issued a proposal to take into account providing social security for secondary school students, which would mean that they are entitled to unemployment benefits and social care without working. An incentive for young people to continue on to higher education, in a member state where early school abandonment rates up to 40% in some areas.