EU Opportunities

As the European Commission implement a new employment scheme, Kate Rothwell examines the aims, criteria and potential implications of the ‘Your first EURES job’ initiativeIt doesn’t take an economist to see why the European Commission’s latest job creation initiative may come under fire in Ireland. The ‘Your first EURES job’ scheme will provide financial support for young European jobseekers doing interviews and taking up positions in EU states other than that in which they reside, or as some people may see it, pay for them to emigrate.This blunt description of the scheme is not incorrect, but it does distract from the positive impact that the initiative looks set to have. Much of any current Irish media reportage which touches on recession and emigration tends to be pervaded by an overpowering sense of doom and an increasingly anti-EU sentiment but this, for once, is a positive news story.We are constantly reminded of the scores of people who are leaving this country for lands as far-flung as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. They have to save up relatively large amounts of money in order to make the journey, and once they reach their destination and secure a job – a feat which is not always as easy as promised – they will have to put aside their hard-earned savings in order to fly back and see their family every one or two years. YfEj will encourage job seekers to look for positions that are somewhat closer to home. That is not to say that moving to Germany or Sweden is the same as working in Galway or Sligo, but there is a notable difference between the cost of a transatlantic flight and that of a regular European Ryanair booking.Taking advantage of a potential job opportunity abroad does not mean being tied to a new country of residence for life. The YfEj placements will be a minimum of six month’s duration, but if employees choose not to stay any longer than this, the experience of working in a foreign country could strengthen their chances of securing a job when they return home. Most employees widen their skill set while working abroad, as they often learn or improve a third language and adapt to another culture, as well as adjust to a vastly different working environment.Of course we must not just look at this scheme from an Irish jobseeker’s perspective. Applicants from other EU states could well find their work placements in stronger areas of employment in Ireland, such as accounting or IT. The YfEj scheme will focus on matching understaffed employment sectors in some countries with an oversupply of labour markets in others, so that it is not a case of jobs being ‘stolen’ from national workers. We are all in the midst of a financial Euro-crisis; we must all be content to assist one another where we can.The age limit on the scheme, which restricts eligibility to those aged eighteen to thirty, may also cause considerable contention, and understandably so, when those under thirty are far from the only age group who are in need of new job opportunities. In a Q&A document published by the European Commission it was stated that this restriction was due to eighteen to twenty-four-year olds being statistically proven to be the age group that is “having more difficulties in getting a foothold in the labour market.” This is a valid claim, but the extension of the age group to an upper threshold of thirty will not impress those who exceed it.Yet if the age limit is taken out of the equation, the scheme appears to be remarkably open in terms of who can apply; it does not disqualify anyone from applying on the basis of “qualifications, work experience or social/economic background.” Those of us involved in university life tend to focus on established graduate schemes and often view post-graduate education as a necessity; it may be of more benefit to us than we realise to look at the bigger picture and appreciate that those whose career path does not include third level education are just as deserving of the chance to compete for such opportunities. Whether graduates will be as tempted by opportunities with SMEs abroad as they are by big name graduate schemes closer to home however, remains to be seen.‘Your first EURES job’ is a large-scale project which may cause some controversy, but in reality will only affect a small number of participants – two to three thousand people is a relatively small figure once it is spread across twenty-seven member states. The scheme is not without fault and its overall impact may be minor but the initiative is to be admired; not only does it offer young jobseekers greater access to international employment opportunities, but it encourages them to look further afield for exciting options they may otherwise never have considered.