Spreading Actions Defending Quality Public Services

Spreading Actions Defending Quality Public Services

The Quality Public Services Young Workers’ Forum held in Geneva on 11 October 2010 demonstrated that such a forum provides a medium for open discussion and the voicing of ideas for young workers that can lead them toward concrete actions. The forum was a mandate given to Public Services International (PSI) under Resolution No. 20 “Succession Planning through Intensified and Meaningful Involvement of Young Workers”, as a way for this global union to increase support for young workers’ involvement in the trade union movement and give them a representative position on the Executive Board, all of which shows that strengthening young workers is very important for the organisation movement in the future. As we realise that public sectors are under threat and quality public services are declining, we should be preparing young members to take the lead and bring back a recognition of the importance of public services. It is not just a matter of organising but also a matter of sharing and acknowledging that public services are the key to social equality, and that therefore we need young workers to defend public services with vigour and use all their ability together with their unions.

The latest report of the ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010 consistently demonstrates the increasing uncertainty about hope for improvement in thelabour market in this current context of economic instability, rising unemployment of young people and the social hazard associated with discouragement and prolonged inactivity. The report also shoes that at the end of 2009, there were an estimated 81 million unemployed young people in the world (of which more than 36.4 million of these 15-24 years-olds were in Asia and Pacific). If we compare these statistics with 2007, at the start of global crisis there were only 7.8 million. This means that unemployment rose sharply.

With the significant rise in the number of unemployed, it may be said that the crisis and the low recovery in the job market are likely to marginalise young people. In this situation, young people are also competing for a limited number of jobs, and if or when they do find employment, they often find themselves working long hours, on short-term and/or informal contract, with low pay, little or no social protection, minimal training and no voice at work. These situations also happen across the public sector, where precarious working conditions are fast becoming common. It is a decent work deficit, with the risk of a possible crisis legacy of a “lost generation” as warned by the ILO report above.

The liberalisation and privatisation of public services negatively affects working people, and no doubt affects the workplace by causing loss of benefits necessary for decent working standards, and of course young workers are in fact the most vulnerable in these conditions. The existence of factors causing vulnerability characterise the situation of youth, regardless of the state of the economy, both in developed countries and developing countries. However, the negative consequences of the developing countries giving young workers little hope of obtaining better conditions means that more and more working poor are young people, for whom the available jobs are inadequate and thus do not provide the income to escape poverty.

A solution for this situation needs to be determined across sectors, and investing in young people is an opportunity to build a better world: jobs creation, improving employment conditions and the earning power of young workers. Otherwise, youth unemployment can be a “social time bomb”, as the ITUC has described in pointing out the high and rising level of youth unemployment globally, which risks damaging the social, economic and political fabric of countries around the world. Meanwhile, some efforts have been taken – for example, YEN or Youth Employment Network. YEN is a partnership of the UN, ILO and World Bank in which the network goal is to prioritise youth employment on the development agenda and to exchange knowledge on effective policies and programmes to improve employment opportunities for youth. In the OECD countries’ latest research, it is indicated that in the short term, a priority must be to provide income support to unemployed young people, and another promising avenue is apprenticeship for low-skilled young people, which could pay a ”double dividend”: securing the transition towards employment and lowering labour costs compensated by a training commitment from the employer. Governments could provide subsidies to promote apprenticeships and help apprentices made redundant to complete their training (source:http://www.oecd.org/)

Thus, in this context, increasing public spending for higher education is a must; it could at least offer a chance of escaping poverty, since the probability of finding employment rises with higher levels of education. Improving public services makes a decisive contribution in the quality of life for everyone including young people; it will lead us to opportunities of our own with equal rights. Therefore, fighting a global battle for quality public services is an important tool of democracy for a strong economy that offers democratic public services and guarantees a just workplace to its employees and society. If we aware of this, then let’s work to make a better world possible and fight to defend quality public services.

This article was published by ITUC Youth Blog on 22 November 2010

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