Part 2 – Social Backgrounds

Analysis and evaluation of the European context in the 21st century

The project aims to meet new needs arising from the increase of groups with challenges within the scope of life projects. It is therefore imperative to examine the European context of the 21st century by presenting some information and statistical data on the world’s migration situation as it is affecting European countries, especially on demographic, educational, employability and skills issues.

Migration Issues

Migration refers to an exit movement out of the city and/or country of origin, and consequent entry into a new host city and/or country. According to the United Nations data, in 2015, more than 244 million people around the world were in a situation of migration (Kunzig, n.d.). The reasons for leaving the city and/or country of origin may be the most diverse, from the desire to go study abroad, the need to seek employment opportunities, the experience of a situation of extreme poverty, or the existence of conflicts and wars. Nowadays, news that are being transmitted by the media spread the idea that the active conflicts in different regions of the globe are those principally responsible for migration situations. However, of the significant number of refugees, only a small proportion are due to the current 15 conflicts around the world. In 2016, approximately 65.3 million people left their countries for the sake of survival, of whom 21.3 million have a refugee status, 3.2 million are seeking asylum, and 40.8 million are internally displaced in their own country (Batha, 2016).

These data are extremely pertinent, since they run counter to a general perception of forced migration to the Western countries— that migrants’ first choice is to flee from their country. In fact, most people choose to move from their homes while remaining within the country. For example, it is estimated that in Syria, 13.5 million Syrians will need humanitarian assistance within the country (Syrian refugees, 2016). Another option is to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq being the countries receiving the most refugees (Saunders, 2016). Only Turkey has received more than 3 million refugees and migrants, including 2.7 million Syrians (Batha, 2016). Only as a last resort do they turn to the help of Europe. Data indicate that the European continent received a total of 1.3 million (1,327,560) refugees in 2015. By 2016, about 100 migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were arriving in Greece each day, while about 500 migrants from Africa arrived each day in Italy (Connor & Krogstad, 2016). Across the European continent, Germany (over 442,000), Hungary (174,000), and Sweden (156,000) together received more than half of the asylum applications in 2015 (Eurostat, 2015).

Forced migrants arriving in Europe are from very diverse countries, but most often include people from countries in Asia and the middle east, such as Syria (378,000), Afghanistan (193,000), and Iraq (127,000), and also Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran and Ukraine (Connor & Krogstad, 2016, Eurostat, 2015). Their crossing into Europe is usually fraught with dangers that threaten their survival. Entire families flee from an almost certain death in their countries of origin to confront a set of circumstances in their travels, which, unfortunately, often do not allow them a better destination. According to Saunders (2016), most refugees arrive in Europe by land or sea. Those arriving by land usually make a long journey through Turkey, Greece, or the Balkans. Those arriving by boat often come from Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Eritrea, but also from Senegal and Somalia, countries that are not in active conflict (Batha, 2016; Saunders, 2016). Front data (in BBC news, 2016) indicate that in 2016, about 370,000 people arrived in Europe by sea, of which about 173,000 arrived in Greece and 167,000 arrived in Italy. At least 4,960 migrants died in the Mediterranean crossing in 2016, trying to get to Europe, mainly because of overcrowding of ships (Batha, 2016).

When they arrive, many of the refugees seek asylum. 1.321.600 asylum applications were made to the European Union, 29% of Syria, 14.8% of Afghanistan, 9.9% of Iraq, 3.7% of Pakistan, and 3.6% of Eritrea, and 39% of other countries (Kunzig, n.d.). Data indicate that Germany received 29% of the requests, followed by France (13.2%), and Sweden (12.9%). Countries such as Denmark (1.2%), Portugal (<0.5%) and Czech Republic (<0.5%) have fewer applications for asylum (Kunzig, n.d.). Of these, Germany approved 140,910, Sweden approved 32,215, Italy approved 29,615, and France approved 20,630, the Netherlands approved 16,450 and the UK approved 13,905 (Eurostat, 2015; in, BBC news, 2016). However, it is possible that by 2015 illegal entries into Europe would have been much higher. BBC news (2016) points to about 1,000,000 from the Eastern Mediterranean, 800,000 from Western Balkans, and 150,000 from the Central Mediterranean. This international flow of refugees, although recurrent, has not been constant, and has led countries to build walls and close borders (Kunzig, n.d., Saunders, 2016).

Many European citizens disapprove of how the EU is dealing with refugee issues. The most discontented countries are Greece (94%), Sweden (88%) and Italy (77%), which are precisely the countries that are most in need of “relocation” of migrants and refugees (Connor & Krogstad, 2016). To meet this need, Germany has undertaken to accept about 27,000 refugees, France approximately 20,000, Spain approximately 9,000, and Portugal and the Czech Republic almost 4000 each (BBC news, 2016). The United Kingdom and Denmark are not participating in this relocation scheme (BBC news, 2016). But, despite all the efforts of different countries in Europe to support the crisis of migrants and refugees, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) considers that the monetary amount donated by member countries is insufficient (Syrian refugees, 2016). In total, about 7,000 million euros were donated, of which €752,262 came from the United Kingdom and €543,526 from Germany. Countries such as France, Denmark, Czech Republic, and Portugal contributed the least, financially, to this humanitarian aid (BBC news, 2016).

Europe’s practical capacities to accommodate more refugees are very close to their limits (Tiffany, 2016). Most Western countries only get in contact with refugees during conflicts, after which the majority of those return to their countries of origin as soon as they can, whilst some become well-integrated citizens in host countries (Saunders, 2016).

Demographic Issues

In recent years, there have been profound changes in the European demographic composition, posing significant challenges to the economy and welfare system of EU countries. On the one hand, the EU countries face low birth rates and have an aging population and, on the other hand, the migratory patterns have changed. There is a relatively small number of children (0-14 years old) in European countries, and a growing number of post productive age (over 65). Portugal is one of the countries with the lowest fertility rates at 1.21. Czech Republic has a fertility rate of 1.46 and Denmark 1.67. Notably, the minimum fertility rate for “replacement” (maintaining the same population) is 2.1 children per woman. Thus, the data on ageing of the population indicate significant changes in the age structure of the population in the coming years.  It is estimated that, if the population in productive age (from 15 to 64 years old) represents a significant part of the population, in the near future, there may be a marked decrease in the labour market. The Eurostat long-term population projections indicate a reduction in the number of working-age people in the EU by 15.7 million over the forecast horizon of 2016-2060; this is expected to reduce labour supply by 195.6 million until 2060. The decline in the workforce will affect growth and per capita income, with a resulting decline in potential economic growth[1]. This situation will lead to a serious socioeconomic problem, considering that, at present, the working-age group has a level of economic activity below 100%.

Europe has been facing a serious refugee crisis since 2015, as described above, that has become a political and humanitarian problem. Despite the numerous uncertainties regarding the European Union and member states’ strategies to tackle immigration problems and related issues, hundreds of thousands of refugees have continued to flee war and other conflicts or economic problems in their countries and find refuge in European countries. Portugal’s commitment to the European Union is to receive 4,500 refugees, although the political will is to welcome and integrate about 10,000[2].  There are currently 111 institutions available to host refugee families in Portugal, and up to now 65 families have been accommodated, out of a total of 276 people (143 of whom are minors). However, the reception and integration of refugees represents a situation of social mobility characterized by a great diversity of cultural backgrounds, both with regards to Europe and the groups themselves, thus enhancing the difficulties of social and labour integration. There are also issues related to the phenomenon of terrorism that have other implications for approaching displaced populations. Today, European countries are facing the need, and the difficulty, to promote the active reception of socially vulnerable groups of people, of their own nationals and of the foreigner arriving, as to help these persons to succeed to become well integrated and productive members of the society.

Educational Issues

Despite the efforts and investment of European countries in education, and the progress made, training and education problems persist and reinforce social vulnerability. The report “European education and training cooperation: new priorities”, prepared in 2015 by the European Council and the Commission, contain important data for reflection on educational issues and social vulnerability, revealing high early drop-out rates and low skilled adults, most of whom are unemployed or inactive.

Over the last few years, the following developments have been linked to the academic situation in the European context:

A significant reduction in the number of people with only basic education;

A significant reduction in the number of people holding secondary education degrees; and,

An exponential increase in the number of people attending higher education.

However, notwithstanding the progress made in recent years, the European situation is still worrying, with population groups, in particularly the adults and young people, who have failed to complete any level of education, including persons characterized by situations more unstable financially and temporarily unpredictable. According to European Commission data, at the end of 2015, there were more than 5 million young people without any full educational level in the European Union, and about 3.2 million in the Eurozone countries. In the particular case of migrants, there are serious educational inequalities, with the group often having a higher probability of dropping out of school (e.g., Belgium, Austria).

In European countries around 20% of young people between 25 and 34 years of age have completed higher education, with 30% in Portugal, 28% in Germany and 22% in the Czech Republic, whereas the EU target is of 40 % to be achieved by 2020. Alongside this situation, the labour market is characterized by the creation of new jobs that require highly skilled employees, with the (hard and soft) skills necessary to perform new tasks and to participate in an international work environment. Although the labour market is dynamic, and predicting the necessary skills and knowledge can be challenging, it is clear that matching the labour market’s present and future needs will be achieved only by a strategic focus on developing human capital through constant investment at both the levels of initial training and of continuous education, encouraging and supporting lifelong learning. Without investment in education, individuals will be at a disadvantage in obtaining/maintaining these jobs, and organizations will lack a qualified labour force with impact on economic growth and capacity to compete successfully, innovate and ensure less harming effects of economy on the environment and society as a whole.

Employability Issues

The labour market situation is quite different in the various European countries. Unemployment reached, in 2015, 9.4%, with Europe accounting for 28 countries (Pordata, 2015), and around 10.8% if we consider only the Eurozone. These statistics generally indicate that one out of each ten people is unemployed. For example, in Portugal, the most severely unemployed population includes women over 45 years of age, with a low level of education, looking for new jobs from the services sectors, and looking for work for 12 or more months. In 2015, according to data from Pordata, the average unemployment rate in Portugal was 12.4% of the working-age population, while in the Czech Republic, the average number of unemployed people has been decreasing, representing 5% of the working-age population, that is, between 15 and 64 years.

In recent years the unemployment situation appears to be becoming particularly acute for young adults. On one hand, there are countries where the unemployment rate in the 15–19 age group is extremely high (e.g., in the Czech Republic only 4.5% of people aged 20 or under were employed in 2015 – Pordata). On the other hand, there are other countries (e.g., Denmark, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Austria and Germany) where it is quite common for this age group to be particularly active in the labour market, with employment rates between 25.5% and 51.6% when the average employment rate in Europe accounting for 28 countries is 15%. People within this age group are often employed in contexts consistent with their qualification, and in which they can develop their skills and acquire financial sustainability/economic independence. A report from the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training in 2012 (Cedefop, 2012) foresees that there will be a return to job growth across Europe over the coming years due to improvement in the economic outlook. Furthermore, with a slightly growing population of the EU going from 510 to 517 million in 2060, the population of Europe will also be older.  It is important to find ways of finding young adults to replace retiring workers. One of these ways would be to integrate the unemployed into the labour market.

High unemployment rates generally perpetuate cycles of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. In addition to the unemployment situation, it is important to note the existence of a specific group within this population which corresponds to “underemployed” or “not fully employed”, and who are generally in this situation due to three conditions. On the one hand, they may have an excess of academic and/or professional qualifications vis-à-vis the professional proposal presented to them. On the other hand, they may accept involuntary part-time work, since they would like to be able to work full-time, but due to various constraints (e.g. lack of professional opportunities), only part-time opportunities are offered. And yet another reality is hidden unemployment, in which the worker is not fully occupied, for legal or social reasons, and is only requested seasonally. The underemployment situations have been increasingly maintained in Europe through strategies used for certain work-groups, such as employing young graduates on the grounds of allowing them to gain work experience, employing women with the argument that they facilitate family-work conciliation, and employing immigrants and refugees on the grounds that their qualifications obtained in the country of origin are not in line with the performance of the duties in the host country. Any of the conditions behind the “underemployment” situation leave the person in a situation of great social and professional vulnerability.

Skills Issues

According to the Joint Report of the European Council and European Commission on the implementation of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (2015), published in the Official Journal of the European Union, the development of new skills and lifelong learning opportunities for the European workforce has faced several issues: one in four adults in Europe is caught in a low-skills trap—a situation that limits access to the labour market, while simultaneously closing avenues to further education or training. Only 4.4 % of the 66 million adults with at best lower secondary education attainment participate in adult learning; early school leaving now stands at 11.1 %. While good progress has been made towards the common Europe 2020 headline target, there are still more than 4.4 million early school leavers across Europe, and about 60 % of these are either inactive or unemployed, which means higher risks of social exclusion and lower civic engagement.

Policies tackling unemployment and integration are mainly focused on getting adults into work rather than ensuring a good match between labour market needs and the skills available in the person in question. This disparity causes problems. It places the individual in a position of not being able to meet the requirements of the labour market, and the company does not acquire the work force that it needs. Hence, we do not meet the employment objectives. Reaching employment objectives is important, as we need to create a Europe that makes full use of the skills of its citizens, new and existing. The “Tackling Unemployment while Addressing Skill Mismatch” Cedefop 2015 Report suggests various approaches to solve these challenges. We can either address this dual objective by tacking a preventive approach or by addressing it directly and changing the situation that led to the unemployment of those already in a situation of exclusion from the labour market. The focus is on looking at unemployed young adults, including migrants and refugees, who, for different reasons, are excluded from the labour market. The problem for these groups of people is that, when they eventually do enter the work force, they find themselves unemployed shortly after, due to not being able to match the needs of the company for better qualified persons.

In its recent Report “The Future of Jobs”, published 18th January 2016, the World Economic Forum lists the top 10 non-formal skills, in addition to a certain educational level, that will be increasingly needed in the labour market until 2020: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgment & decision-making; service orientation; negotiation; and, cognitive flexibility.

Therefore, unemployed low-skills adults need more than specific and formal training; this is why we aim at contributing to this target group’s career development by identifying, recognizing and transferring the individual’s skills. The mentors, advisors and trainers that take part in the training or job matching process will ensure the coherence and adequacy of adult learning by improving the coordination between the labour market developments and the capacity of the (adult) education and training policies to respond to the new labour needs, ensuring in this way a good governance and synergies amongst education and labour market policies.

Several studies point out that the ability to make use of soft skills determines whether or not employment efforts will be successful. It has become apparent that industry specific training and practical skills development cannot stand alone, thus focus needs to be on both hard and soft skills. In addition to efforts made to develop professional skills, it is necessary to contribute to the successful integration into the labour market by finding a way to develop and acquire soft skills and to aid the unemployed through the process of change, thereby helping the individual deal with and find a way through the transition phases, from unemployed to employed and subsequent retention. In order to fit into a 21st century labour market, it is also important for today’s generation of workers to possess and apply 21st century skills, amongst the most important being adaptability, self-efficacy, creative thinking, and problem solving.

In order to improve opportunities, we need to ensure that the adult workforce, especially in the group of unemployed young adults and migrants and refugees aged 18-30, join the workforce while being prepared in the best possible way for the workplace of the 21st century. If the true goal of the training is to find a relationship between the development of skills and the integration in the labour market, the training should not be limited to the development of specific technical skills but also cover how to develop transferable skills that empower and enable the trainees to better perform at work and keep their jobs.

In short, there are many situations like those analysed above that limit the access of individuals to effective educational, training and professional paths and, as a consequence, interfere with their personal, academic/professional, family, social, and community achievement. In this way, their integration into society is compromised. This results in socially vulnerable populations, resulting from very diversified life experiences, which require differentiated interventions by the end users who approach them and, of course, policy measures that foster opportunities for success in the construction and implementation of life projects of their own.

Understanding social justice

Social justice encompasses the adoption of a diversity of actions and laws, favouring equal access of citizens to resources and opportunities irrespective of sexual, racial, ethnic, economic, religious, or other factors. It seeks to ensure that society aims at organizing itself to improve the lives of individuals, satisfying their physical and psychological needs, in a fair, total and egalitarian way, thus favouring the realization of the individuals’ full potential (e.g., Bell, 1997; Fouad, et al., 2006; Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Helms, 2003; Herr, 2001; Herr & Shahnasarian, 2001; Irving & Malik, 2005; O’Brien, 2001; Watson, 2010; Young, 1990).

At present, different areas of knowledge, such as psychology, social service, sociology, and economics, have invested in the development of actions aimed at eradicating inequalities in society (Vera & Speight, 2003) through the development of new theories and practices that contradict the uniform, normative, and Eurocentric vision of society. In the particular case of vocational psychology, the questions of social justice applied to the construction of life projects are rooted in the work of Frank Parsons (1909), within the framework of his theory of vocational adjustment (Blustein, 2006; Fouad, Gerstein & Toporek, 2006). He expressed concern that the theory and practice of career counselling may exclude, even if unintentionally, a significant proportion of the population, including people from non-dominant populations such as young people, women and poor people (McMahon, Arthur, & Collins, 2008).

Almost 100 years later, many voices are raised in defence of the application of social justice notions to overcome the limitations in supporting the construction of life projects (e.g., Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Leong & Hartung, 2000), in particular with regards to people who drop out of school early, the unemployed, the underemployed, and all those who, because of distinctive characteristics of the normative population, have a quite conditioned access and mobility in education and employment (Sampson, Dozier, & Colvin, 2011). However, despite the growing recognition that it is a “moral imperative” (McWhirter et al., 2005, p.215) to overcome differential access to support services for building life projects, these voices have had little echo in Western society. For this reason, despite the emergence of some conceptual proposals in this area, practical and proven resources for promoting social justice are scarce (Arthur, Collins, McMahon & Marshall, 2009; Barham & Irving, 2011; Irving, 2011).

In this regard, it should be noted that support for the construction of life projects occurs mostly with youngsters, young adults and adults, of medium or medium-high socio-economic level, with medium or high academic results or relatively comfortable professional situations. In addition, this type of service occurs precisely in scholar and/or professional contexts, at critical moments of the vocational development. In this way, a very high percentage of people are excluded from this type of support because they do not share the characteristics of the target public, nor are they in the usual circles where it is typically made available. People with differential access to opportunities, resources, and values are often at risk of being marginalized, and their access to the construction of meaningful life trajectories is limited, especially with regard to their academic and/or professional pathways. Their cycle of exclusion is thus perpetuated, since education and employment are considered central means to ensure social justice (Fouad et al., 2006; Hargrove, Creagh, & Kelly, 2003).

Authors such as Blustein, McWhirter and Perry (2005) point to an urgent need to change the focus, abandoning a “denunciation approach”, in which there is only a recognition that the needs of all the people living in our communities are not currently being adequately met. Instead, they defend the need to adopt an “annunciation / articulation” approach, in which the principles of social justice, in relation to social, political and social reforms in society (Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Herr, 2001; Herr & Shahnasarian, 2001) are applied to life, allowing the barriers that hinder an equal distribution of resources and services to be broken down (Arthur, 2005; Toporek & Chope, 2006). However, in order for this new approach to be implemented successfully, the end users working in this field must be prepared to expand their knowledge, skills, roles and levels / type of intervention to support the construction of life projects.

Preparation of different end users to respond to social vulnerability situations

As mentioned under the previous topic, the global demographic, educational and employability changes have implications for the various professionals who work directly with the groups of disadvantaged/vulnerable people, in the context of supporting the construction of their life projects (e.g., Swanson & Fouad, 2010), in particular regarding the need to acquire, train and apply new knowledge, skills, roles, and levels of intervention.

To justify government investment in this area, and as an illustration, the National Career Development Association working group (NCDA)[3] found that people in situations of vulnerability (in particular ethnic and racial minorities) recognized the need to focus on the construction of their life projects. But it also found that these are the people who are less likely to use and / or remain in these services. A possible cause is that the support they receive is not the most appropriate to their present situation of life, either because it is not understood and accepted in its fullness by the professional that assists him/her or because he/she does not feel the advice as pertinent, useful and appropriate to his/her characteristics and problems.

On the one hand, there is evidence that people in situations of vulnerability do not recognize the adequacy of these services in relation to their specific characteristics; on the other hand, the end users who provide these services also recommended the need for complementary training to deal with the new challenges that diversity (gender, racial, ethnic, religious) entails. A recent study developed in Portugal, at the Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Lisbon (Pinto & Rebelo-Pinto, 2017), showed that the end users, despite their several years of professional experience, emphasized their needs to review their knowledge, and further participate in training to be able to develop a diverse set of theoretical knowledge as well as core competencies and better expertise in supporting the construction of life projects of their clients (target group).

Studies like this reinforce the findings that training obtained in an academic and professional context prepares the future end-users for an effective performance of their profession, but the almost exclusive focus on normativity raises concerns in situations that are characterised by a need to support the needs of marginalized groups (Jenschke, 2003).

Faced with this situation, an increasing number of authors (e.g., Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Hartung & Blustein, 2002; Helms, 2003; Irving, & Malik, 2004) advocate the need for greater investment in the development of new policies, new theoretical approaches, and new practical methodologies that ensure adequate services to the new specificities of the different target groups, thus contributing to a fairer and more equitable access. In this sense, there is a need to review the training of end users in order to complement the theoretical-practical training at the micro-level (centred on the individual) that they currently receive, with new ways of thinking and acting at a more macro or systemic level (centred on society) (Helms, 2003; Toporek & Williams, 2006). In fact, it is a moral and ethical imperative that the different professionals who work on issues related to supporting the construction of life projects in vulnerable populations acquire and train knowledge and skills that allow them to develop culturally sensitive and responsive interventions.

Thus, in terms of knowledge, the end users who work in this area would benefits from:

  • Being informed about social justice issues, and in particular about the culturally sensitive strategies and resources that contribute to their promotion;
  • Being able to master traditional models of support for building life projects, and understanding what their principles are, and how they can be applied to diverse populations;
  • Keeping abreast of new theoretical developments in supporting the construction of life projects (e.g. Greenhaus, Callanan, & Godshalk, 2010; Patton, McMahon, & Watson, 2006), and how they can inform their practice with vulnerable populations;
  • Understanding that the situation of professionally vulnerable people is not sufficiently well dealt with a traditional individual intervention, and that these clients can benefit from intervention based on an analysis of the potential impact of systemic forces, i.e., influences from various contexts / systems (Arthur, 2005);
  • Recognizing clients’ (vulnerable persons’) concerns, and the specific challenges and barriers of this type of intervention, ensuring that their most fundamental rights (e.g., being treated equally) are preserved; and
  • Identifying resources and services which, whilst not directly related to education and/or employability issues, can support other areas of life and thus contribute, albeit more indirectly, to the construction of their life projects (e.g., legislation, immigration policies).

In terms of competencies, it is imperative that the end users who work in this area have:

  • Specific competencies for intervention in the construction of life projects, from which we can highlight, for example, evaluation of interests, values and competencies, promotion of self-knowledge, promotion of exploration related to formative and professional information, identification and development of life goals, design and implementation of action plans, construction of career portfolios, preparation for job interviews, curriculum writing, recognition of how social, economic, and political circumstances influence the development of life projects, among others;
  • General counselling skills, such as knowing how to demonstrate empathy and compassion, respect and care for the client, knowing how to support and encourage by fostering hope and optimism about the future, focusing on the client’s personal and environmental strengths, being flexible in order to incorporate clients’ characteristics and rhythm into the counselling (Sue & Sue, 2007), and promoting their empowerment and autonomy;
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, such as promoting a positive environment, using diplomacy and mediation, being able to stimulate motivation, problem solving, creativity, and decision-making, and act as a facilitating change agent (e.g., through reflection, use of open-ended questions, positive feedback, brainstorming, and role-playing); and
  • Multicultural competencies, i.e., knowledge and ability to work with specific subjects, variables and cultural groups (Arthur, 2005, Hartung, 2002, Leung & Hartung, 2000) with ethics, sensitivity and honesty, respecting and accepting difference (Arthur, 2005, Toporek & Williams, 2006), and recognizing when their own beliefs and values interfere with the support process that is being provided.

Keep in mind

European context in the 21st century

Migration issues

  • About the estimated 65.3 million migrants:
    • Most people choose to move from their homes while remaining within their country
    • Many seek asylum in neighboring countries
    • They tend to turn to Europe for help only as a last resort
  • European continent received a total of 1.3 million (1,327,560) refugees in 2015; Germany (over 442,000), Hungary (174,000), and Sweden (156,000) together received more than half of the asylum applications in 2015
  • Most Europeans disapprove of how Europe is dealing with refugees issues
  • Europe’s practical capacities to accommodate more refugees are very close to their limits

Demographic issues

  • Low birth rates and population aging in Europe à lead to serious socioeconomic problem, considering that at present the group aged 15-64 has a level of economic activity below 100%
  • Changes in migratory patterns à European countries need to promote the active reception of socially vulnerable groups of people, enabling them to achieve a productive integration

Educational issues

  • High early drop-out rates, untrained adults, and low percentages of groups with higher education à led to rising number of persons with labour market links more financially unstable and temporarily unpredictable
  • Evolution of the characteristics of current workplace needs together with the creation of new job profiles, requiring highly skilled workers à means that constant investment in European human capital is needed, both at the level of initial training and in lifelong learning

Employability issues

  • The labour market situation is quite different in the various European countries à whilst a common trend in recent years the unemployment situation appears to be becoming particularly acute for young adults
  • There is an important specific group within the population which corresponds to “underemployed” or “not fully employed” persons

Skills issues

  • One in four adults in Europe is caught in a low-skills trap
  • Coherence of adult learning is needed, particularly improving the coordination of (adult) education and labour market policies à therefore ensuring a good match between labour market needs and the skills available
  • Top 10 non-formal skills that will be more needed in the labour market needed by 2020: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgment & decision-making; service orientation; negotiation; and, cognitive flexibility.

Social justice

Adoption of a diversity of actions aimed at the empowerment of societies/nations, favouring access and use by their members of opportunities, resources, and values, without any kind of advantage or disadvantage, in sexual, racial, ethnic, economic, religious, or other factors.

  • Development of actions aimed at eradicating inequalities in society (Vera & Speight, 2003) through the development of new theories and practices that contradict the uniform, normative, and Eurocentric vision of society à “moral imperative” (McWhirter et al., 2005, p.215)
  • Very high percentage of people are excluded from this type of support because they do not display the characteristics of the target public, nor are they in the usual circles where it is typically made available à cycle of exclusion is thus perpetuated
  • Abandoning a “denunciation approach” and adopting an “annunciation / articulation” approach à the principles of social justice, in relation to social, political and social reforms in society are applied to life, allowing the barriers that hinder an equal distribution of resources and services to be broken down (Arthur, 2005; Toporek & Chope, 2006).

End-users need knowledge about

  • Social justice issues
  • Traditional models of support for building life projects
  • New theoretical developments
  • The impact of systemic forces
  • Clients’ concerns, and their specific challenges and barriers
  • Resources and services that can support other areas of life

End-users’ needed competencies

  • Specific competencies for the construction of life projects
  • General counselling skills
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Multicultural competencies



[3]  NCDA is a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA)