Subsidised summer work scheme for school students

In 2004, the Latvian government has for the first time introduced a subsidised scheme to promote the employment of school students during their summer holidays. Young people aged 15-18 may work for a month for private and public employers over June-August, with the state funding part of their wages. The programme has proved very popular with both young people and employers.

In 2004, the State Employment Agency (Nodarbinātības Valsts aģentūra, NVA) is implementing an employment project for school students for the first time. This is a state-supported scheme whereby school students aged 15-18 may work for one month during their summer holiday period from 14 June to 31 August. The government has allocated EUR 226,000 to implement the project. A proportion of these funds will go towards paying half of the minimum monthly wage (EUR 60), for each young person working in an enterprise. Employers will also have to pay at least half of the minimum wage (ie not less than EUR 60). The state funds will also pay for the time of 'work leaders' for the young people (from EUR 30 to EUR 120 per month, depending on the number of students to be supervised).

There was an enthusiastic response by young people to the project, and on the application day long queues formed at the NVA offices. The number of applicants stands at 5,806, but only 3,018 young people will be given a work placement. Businesses also expressed considerable interest in the project, and 5,358 jobs were offered.

The companies wanting to employ young people for summer work include: the retailers Kesko Food and VP Market; the McDonald's fast-food chain; the Laima confectionery factory; the Latvijas Dzelzceļš railway enterprise; the petrol retailer Statoil; Riga National Zoo; Rīgas Satiksme (Riga Transport); the Gaiļezers children’s hospital; the Triāls meat factory; Liepāja municipal enterprise employment projects; the Bauska environmental service; the Ozolaine and Galiņi farm enterprises; the Latvian Agricultural University’s teaching and research farm at Vecauce; and local governments. The young people will thus be employed by both state-owned and private enterprises, foreign- and locally-owned companies and large and small organisations. In total, 518 legal entities have applied for involvement the project, of which 135 are in the Riga region (the capital), 79 are in Kurzeme (western Latvia), 95 in Latgale (eastern Latvia, the poorest region in the EU), 143 in Vidzeme (northeastern Latvia) and 66 in Zemgale (central Latvia).

The interest of young people in the summer work scheme is thought to be due to a desire to obtain their first jobs, earn money and spend their free time constructively. In line with the project's objective that young people should be able to gain experience in starting work legally, their recruitment takes place in accordance with the procedures laid down by law. The process begins with a job interview, although this takes place at the NVA office rather than at a company. The young people receive all of the documentation associated with lawful employment - employment contracts, tax books, hygiene books for those working with food etc. Some young people are also being introduced to having wages paid into banks, so that they learn how to open a bank account and use a debit card.

For their part, employers are thought to be motivated to employ young people under the scheme because this will reduce labour costs thanks to the state support.

Young people are usually given simple jobs under the project, but it is thought that learning about working conditions in a company will help them when the time comes to choose an occupation. There are also possible career opportunities for the young people - if employers wish, they can continue the employment relationship after the one month provided for under the project, but in this case they will have to pay the young person a full wage. The employers have a month to get to know the young person and only have to decide on continuing the relationship after this period. This is very important considering that a shortage of labour is one of the main economic development problems in Latvia.

The hidden agenda for expanding employment opportunities for students is arguably to discourage young people from crime caused by unemployment and a lack of money. The youth crime level in Latvia is not low, with juveniles committing 15%-19% of crimes.

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