6: Labor Market Policies to Fight Youth Unemployment in Portugal: Between Statism and Experimentalism

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Youth unemployment rose in Portugal from the early 2000s and reached a peak of 38.1% in 2014. Due to the severity of this problem, the past two decades saw the implementation of several public programmes to tackle the rise of youth unemployment. This chapter takes stock of these initiatives and explores the Portuguese strategy to address this phenomenon. This work is part of a book that puts forward two alternatives to address youth unemployment – the German vocational and the American entrepreneurial models – and discusses whether Portugal followed a strategy similar to either of the two alternatives. The research questions that guide the chapter are therefore: what was the approach taken by Portugal to tackle the rise of youth unemployment between 2000 and 2017? Did either the German vocational or the American entrepreneurial model serve as an inspiration for the policies addressing this phenomenon in Portugal throughout this period?

Three hypotheses are developed in this chapter. The first is based on the argument that Southern European countries lack institutional complementarities to fully implement the German vocational model or the American entrepreneurial model. Thus, we hypothesize that the state played a key role to address youth unemployment by putting in place programs to fight youth unemployment, programs that did not involve other actors and did not mean implementing a new coherent model based on the German or the American model. The second consists of hypothesizing that the transition to a knowledge-based economy was a concern of Portuguese governments. Promoting entrepreneurship and developing policies focused on graduates was seen as important.

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