XVIII Future Trends Forum – Unemployment in Developed Economies (Pompeunomics)

Originally published in Pompeunomics on the 09/06/2012

So here I am, writing this review after two hard days in the Hotel Ritz in Madrid. I went here not because I am this kind of posh guy who likes fancy hotels (I believe the Ritz is famous and glamourous but not fancy) but because Fundación de la Innovación Bankinter invited me to go and observe how a Future Trends Forum worked on the inside.

Perhaps the first thing I should do is explain what the Future Trends Forum is. The FTF (as it is usually called) is a meeting where experts from all over the world get together to discuss on one special topic (proposed by the team at the FIBK) and give recommendations based on what has been discussed after a couple of days. Just so everyone can understand it, the FTF is a think-tank on innovation topics (actually the University of Pennsylvania classified it as the 19th most relevant innovation think-tank in the world).

And on the 31st of may and 1st of june they met in Madrid to discuss a worrying problem -especially for the case of Spain- unemployment. So what can a pack of 35 experts from about 13 different countries say about Spain?

It would be impossible to summarise a 2-day long conference in a simple post but here are the things that really struck me most:

  • Our education system is pretty good, but it lacks market orientation. It should be necessary to implement a set of basic skills necessary to adapt to companies’ needs (e.g. team-work, leadership, public presentation, selling) so that employability increases.
  • Vocational training needs to be highly regarded. Now it is considered as a non-desirable path. Demystify college education and encourage students to take vocational training (what we call in Spain Formación Profesional).
  • Professor José García-Montalvo (researcher at our dear university) said something very interesting: we have seen 50% youth unemployment rates 3 times in the past 3 decades in this country. What is wrong with Spain to have reached such rates so many times in a short period of time?
  • Labour Markets need to be flexible. We have heard this a dozen times, yet the experts made an interesting point. It has to be easy to both fire and hire people. In my opinion, you should emphasize hiring, but hei! I’m no expert.
  • Bankruptcy rules. One of the reasons we, Spaniards, are reluctant to become entrepreneurs is because if you fail during your business it is very likely that you will be personally liable for your debts. In the FTF it was proposed to reform the legal framework so that failing becomes easier and does not impose a life-long burden.
  • Changing mindsets. It seems we lack the spirit to become entrepreneurs. We should encourage a more entrepreneur-friendly environment in the society (everyone says so but nobody cares when actions have to be taken).
  • Close coordination in the economy. Singaporeans are great. They have this Tripartism thing where Unions, Employer Associations and the Government come together to decide on wages, national employment policies and the kind. If someone dares to think that in Spain we have a similar thing, he/she will be completely wrong. Here we do not have coordination, we have policy approval/rejection.

These are only some rough sketches of what was commented in the FTF. I’m leaving you also with some pictures I took from that day. I’ll probably discuss some further issues derived from my experience in the FTF in the near future, so expect to see more things anytime soon.

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Pues si

 

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