Current national situation of young people having disadvantaged background
According to Eurostat data estimates for Spain, youth unemployment rate was to reach 31.13 % this year. Now, with COVID-19, the statistical office of the European Union shows that youth unemployment in Spain stands at 41.7 %. Also, Spain continues to be the EU country with the highest number of school dropouts (from 18 to 24 years old) despite an improvement in the past decade, being as high as 17.3 %.
In this context, youth policies are usually derived from policies developed on the subjects of unemployment, education, and the health system. While Spanish youth policy does not define specific disadvantaged groups, the focus lies on employment and integration into the labour market.
In Andalusia there has been a general stigmatisation of unemployed youngsters by adults. The so-called NEETs suffer from the consequences of the financial crisis of 2008, and even those who were highly qualified to work in the fields which they had studied for were unable to find a job suitable for them or were forced to take low-quality, poorly paid jobs. This could be one of the reasons why young people do not find the motivation and enthusiasm to take part in the projects and activities that youth workers offer. Now these young people have been hit again, this time by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.
In addition, the impact of the coronavirus emergency aggravates social and gender inequality, especially among young women. In Spain, 37.5 % of women between the ages of 16 and 29 were already at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Now they face a higher risk of school drop-out and unemployment, assume a greater burden of domestic tasks and care and are more exposed to suffer various forms of violence.
Another highly affected group is young people who are or have been under the Child Protection System, and those who have not reached this age but have grown up and reached the age of 18 in contexts of serious risk of vulnerability. 83.9 % are at risk of poverty and exclusion, and 10.4 % live on the streets or in a highly precarious situation, almost half of them (45%) in Madrid.
Main challenges of youth workers who work with youngsters having disadvantaged background in their daily implementation
As the public structuring of youth policies in Spain was done in 1975 after the Franco dictatorship ended and the transition to democracy took place and as most of the projects work top-down, there are widespread calls for restructuring of this system. Moreover, the findings from Spain identify a wide range of obstacles or challenges in terms of reaching their target group. The causes may be the following:
- Lack of recognition of youth worker as a profession: as we have seen, youth work is still rather unknown in the field of education, so the figure of the youth worker is still not recognised as a profession. This leads to a lack of trust from young people and the people around them as well as public and private institutions.
- Lack of knowledge about youth work and programmes like Erasmus+: most young people in Spain do not know the main activities of youth workers because there is not enough information available for them. One of the reasons why this information does not reach young people is because they do not know where to find it, which is why informative talks in schools or universities might be a good solution. Even though this has been slowly changing in the last few years, there is still a lot of work to be done. Many times, the experiences people have, are transmitted through word of mouth.
- Lack of participation, interest and motivation from young people: Sometimes, the challenges that youth workers face when implementing their projects can be the lack of enthusiasm from young people and their unwillingness to get involved. Another reason is the progressive loss of the motivation they had when the project started.
- Lack of grants to organisations from the public institutions: As opposed to other European countries, public institutions do not offer the possibility of granting funds to youth work organisations in order to develop and implement projects aimed at young people. In other cases, this lack of funding means that many organisations, youth centres or youth associations cannot organise their activities in a place where participants can feel safe.
Current tools and methodology that youth workers and social workers use by working with disadvantaged youngsters to promote their integration
In Spain, people working in the field of youth must constantly receive trainings in order to assess young people’s needs and choose the adequate course of action so their relationship with youngsters is beneficial to them. This also means that they always have to look for new and innovative methods to use in the development and implementation of their activities and projects.
Platforms like INJUVE are very useful tools for youth workers as well as young people looking for activities that might be attractive for them. In their website, they offer information about different activities, scholarships, job offers, training courses or educational opportunities open to the public. Moreover, having a wide network of youth workers and people working in the field can be very favourable in order to find training opportunities.
Youth work assists young people in becoming aware of themselves, what they like, what they want to do in the future, the best ways to achieve the objectives that they set for themselves, etc. Participating in an organisation related to youth work improves their self-esteem, encourages positive atmospheres between young people and is necessary for them to develop an open-minded mentality. It is also very helpful to raise their awareness on their families, people they know and the communities that they live in, and it can be useful to improve their coexistence. The activities and projects developed by organisations and entities are strengthening young people’s network and their social circles. It is possible to meet people that have the same interests in order to build strong friendships, but it is also useful to meet experts in the same professional field who could be interested in future collaborations.
Finally, youth work serves as a tool for young people to develop certain skills and competences in diverse areas that will be useful in the future to find a job in an increasingly competitive labour market.
Brief description of Good Practices on youth work aimed at youngsters having disadvantaged background in the country
A typical program led by public administration is PICE, with the aim of improving the training of young people through training itineraries, both in person and online training. They carry out internships in companies where they can apply everything they have learned and is intended for people under 30 years of age. This program aims at improving the employability of its users and their capabilities.
Another example is Almanjáyar en Familia (ALFA), an organization in the city of Granada that intends to promote social and cultural education in Almanjáyar. They started social education and intervention projects with socially vulnerable minors in 2004. The goal was to improve the residents’ quality of life by empowering them through the development of their own personal skills. They aim for a peaceful and cooperative coexistence so that they can live in a steadier and more productive environment while they acquire the necessary tools and skills to move forward. Juan Carlos Carrión González, president of this organization, stresses that it is necessary to pay attention to social reality, respond to it, and offer young people what they cannot have: space with computers, living in the parish, accompaniment, etc. In short, their project “Paper planes” seeks to develop the critical thought capabilities of these kids, prepare them for adult life, improve their self-esteem, promote their social skills and train them in decision-making.
The methodology in ALFA is based on everyone’s compromise: employees, volunteers, and users. The first lesson that they teach to young people is giving and receiving, as opposed to only requesting. They achieve getting young people involved in healthy activities using their own motivation. This is their way of offering their users activities that are different from the ones that they usually get in their neighbourhood. The workshops that they organise are requested by young people, a simple way to guarantee their attendance and interest. Without them, there’s no project. Their goal is to make them understand that they are the protagonists of their lives and their community.
ALFA users are usually youngsters with a high school drop-out rate. Independent problem solving is at the centre of ALFA’s attention, so they can develop skills as a result of their own needs. They need to go from an “I can’t” mentality to “I need to learn how to do it”, as they do in workshops for their development in digital competences. One of their initiatives with the most impact is their female football team. Through such a healthy activity, they have faced gender stereotypes, promoting teamwork, conflict resolution, or the need for commitment in order to achieve social progress. However, studies come first, and the coaches who support the team do not hesitate to dedicate training time to catch up with homework or to solve questions if they notice that users are struggling with their grades.