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Jobs and Skills in the Local Economy

As a result of the signature of the Pact of Amsterdam on 30th May 2016, Europe has committed to improve its funding, policies and knowledge through the EU Urban Agenda. Overarching most of the ongoing twelve thematic partnerships is the role that economy has in creating better living conditions for citizens in Europe. In this article we would like to share some good practices encountered throughout Cooperative City experiences, hoping to inspire policy-makers with what is already happening on the ground of our cities. How can we create new jobs in the digital and circular economy fields to make our continent competitive? What skills need to be developed to provide new services? How do fair employment conditions impact on other aspects, such as housing, social inclusion of minors groups, gender equality, poverty reduction?

Target groups
The employment situation in Europe is overall improving, yet based on the Employment Report (2017) of the EU Commission, there are some key aspects to be tacked in the near future. One key aspect emerging is that 23.7% of EU population is in risk of poverty, for which good working conditions can be a fundamental opportunity to improve daily life. Overall, the following target groups can be identified:

The following examples are deriving from the Interactive Cities URBACT network and the Funding the Cooperative City book.

Semaest, Paris

City: Paris, FR
Promoter: Semaest (semi-public company of the City of Paris)
Scale: City-wide (especially north-east)
Vital Quartier
Budget: 80 million euro in loans
New jobs: 1500

SEMAEST is a Parisian semi-public company specialised in commercial revitalisation, which operated through the Vital Quartier program. It recently launched the CoSto program, which matches local shopkeepers and ICT startups for new digital retail solutions. The shopkeepers in the CoSto network can test new digital solutions over several months, for free, which impacts on their competitive profile and capacity to survive, keeping neighbourhoods lively. Young start-ups have the possibility of testing and improving new products based on real demand. The project is currently funded through the ITI instrument of the City of Paris.

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Further information:

Tourism Tax, Genova

City: Genova, IT
Promoter: City of Genova and Chamber of Commerce
Scale: city-wide
Budget: €491,360,000 in 2016
Time frame: since 2012
New jobs: approximately 1,500 in five years

The Municipality of Genoa (IT) adopted the City Tax Management System in 2012, based on an official agreement between City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the tourism sector. Under the Genoa City Tax Management System, the City Tax is considered as a way to improve the marketing, communication and branding strategies and the hospitality services of the city. It is perceived as an opportunity and not as an obligation.
The agreement’s operational instrument is the City Tax Working Group (CTWG), which defines and implements strategies to promote the city using these tax resources. Coordinated by the Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Culture, the CTWG is composed of representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, associations of hotel owners and tourism stakeholders.
Each year, the Chamber of Commerce submits the Marketing and Communication Plan guidelines to the City Council. It is elaborated and shared among the members of CTWG, approved by the City Council, and implemented by the City Marketing, Tourism, International Relations Department of the City Hall, in collaboration with CTWG members. Results are regularly monitored during the year.

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This activity received an URBACT Good Practice award. Further information

BIP/ZIP, Lisbon

City: Lisbon, PT
Promoter: City of Lisbon
Scale: city-wide
Budget: 9 332 535 euros (50.000 euro grants)
Time frame: since 2009

The BIP/ZIP (Lisbon Local Development Strategy for Priority Intervention areas) provides a grant system to social enterprises and NGOs operating in priority neighbourhoods of the city in order to develop pilot projects fostering inclusion and employment. Through a kick-off support of 50.000 euros the initiatives have to develop a self-sustaining model. Furthermore, the BIP/ZIP model includes a mapping system, a local governance support and training programs.
Based on the BIP/ZiP experience, in 2015 the CLLD network was created between the City and 150 organisations to address urban poverty and unemployment.

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BIP/ZIP was awarded as Urbact Good Practice, further information:

Business clusters, Bilbao

City: Bilbao, ES
Promoter: Bizkaia Province
Scale: Province
Time frame: since 1990s

The cluster system started off more than two decades ago in the Basque Country. It consists in the gathering of SMEs, agencies and universities sharing their interest in a given strategic sector. All partners in a Basque cluster work cooperatively, since they believe competitiveness cannot be improved nor demands for internationalisation, innovation or sustainability met working in isolation. Furthermore, clusters are location-based partnerships.
Clusters get support from a network of Strategic Sector Observatories, an idea from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Trade and Tourism of the Basque Government for identifying the knowledge needs of Basque companies, facilitating access to strategic information, offering supervision or prospective mechanisms, and empowering priority clusters as key elements in the innovation system. At present, Basque businesses come together in more than 25 sector partnerships and 14 clusters.

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Further information:

Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative, Rotterdam

City: Rotterdam, NL
Promoter: Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative
Scale: neighbourhood
New Jobs: approx 20
Time frame: since 2012

Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative operates in South Rotterdam’s Feijenoord area. Evolved from an art project conducted in the area by the Freehouse Foundation, the Cooperative works on bringing together existing workspaces, entrepreneurs, producers, social organisations and the market. The Cooperative began its work by mapping the unrecognised skills and competences of residents in the Afrikaanderwijk neighbourhood, suffering from problems of low education, unemployment and a bad reputation. Based on these skills, the Cooperative created a number of organisations to help residents use their competences through establishing a neighbourhood kitchen and catering company, a textile workshop and a cleaning company, offering services on the market and bidding for municipal commissions, in order to keep revenues in the area and create jobs for locals.

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Further information:

Some questions and initial learnings
The above mentioned cases show how employment is a strong means to deliver territorial cohesion, social inclusion and individual empowerment. The experiences provided highlight a series of major questions that require further analysis in order to develop more solid guidelines:

  • How can education, both formal and informal, be better connected to the labour market?
  • To what extent can local public services be provided in collaboration with locally organized networks? And what are their requirements in order to deliver effectively and efficiently?
  • How to support the creation of locally based networks in order to create employment and provide services?
  • What competences should be run by the public administration and which ones are better delegated to local communities?
  • How can governance enable the implementation of actions to be carried out at local, municipal or even up to regional scale?
  • How can funding streams be connected between different sectors in order to promote a sustainable strategy for employment?
  • How can low skilled workers be integrated in emerging labour strategies, such as circular economy or IT sectors?
  • How can EU investment and loans be oriented towards social and solidarity economy initiatives, in order to provide new employment opportunities?

Despite there being still many steps to be made in order to reach a more structural change within the employment market, some key learnings may already be drawn:
An employment strategy with a territorial approach. In order for employment strategies to be effective they need to address the territorial context at its different scales. Creating new jobs means thinking about the spatial externalities on our cities: access to affordable housing, mobility, reuse of abandoned buildings, proximity to services, connection to education facilities.
Addressing different issues with the same funding. Job creation impacts other domains, such as education, mobility, housing and social support, and vice versa. Employment needs to be addressed in relation with other aspects, also addressed by the EU Urban Agenda, that are closely inter-related with it. Optimising the use of funding allows to make the employment strategy more effective, resilient to change and possibly less expensive.
Public administrations enable local stakeholder networks. Synergies amongst key stakeholders are essential to create a favourable environment for civic initiatives, private enterprises and knowledge hubs to create local job opportunities. By enabling such processes, the public administration can target especially those currently struggling to access the labour market (young, women, foreigners, etc.).
Assessing social impact. For employment to be a means to improve people’s quality of life we need to develop methods to measure and evaluate also in qualitative terms the social impact of proposed and carried out employment strategies. Not only the overall number of jobs created, but also the conditions they provide, their duration and the mobility are aspects that need to be taken into account.

Some concrete steps that can be implemented at city level by public administrations:

  • Integrated approaches that see employment as a means to reach societal goals and is therefore embedded in other local strategies (e.g. employment in relation to waste management).
  • Funding (grants or loans) to setup or up-scale local businesses by giving priority to the creation of local stakeholder networks.
  • Space for experimentation of new employment opportunities, provided for free or at an affordable price, in which new employment hubs can be created.
  • Education, training and capacity building to strengthen concept, business models, international relations, administrative skills (legal and accounting) particularly for young companies, possibly in different languages.
  • Digital tools can facilitate most of the above mentioned points, supporting the shift towards an inclusive Digital Economy. For example, IT platforms to facilitate networking and visibility, which can help matchmaking local competences at local level but also create entrepreneurial networks with international visibility.

The above listed actions have been already tested in some of their parts by administrations, civil initiatives, private sector and research hubs, but an overarching strategy that comprises the involvement of different governmental tiers as well as different domains has not yet been implemented.

Further examples can be found here.


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