Phase V: 2020

2020 – Urban Productivity. New Public Space, Youth Integration and Labour Market Access

crossover/focus: urban design and social theory

In many cities of the global North, public spaces have been characterized as having lost their productive role while increasingly catering for the needs of consumerist lifestyles. This finding is contrasted with empirical evidence (not only) from cities of the global South in which growing parts of the young population have been disintegrated and disconnected from the labour markets. According to UN Habitat “youth make up 25% of the global working age population, but account for 43.7% of the unemployed. This means that almost every other jobless person in the world is between the ages of 15 and 24.”(UN Habitat Online 2018). It is in these cities but also in European cities that public spaces are acquiring new productive roles to reorganize existing labour markets and to bring informalized economies and ways to make one’s living back into formalized sectors and patterns of public regulation. In Greece, Spain and Italy, between 30-45% of young people are unemployed, whereas rates in Cyprus, Croatia, Portugal and France range between 20 and 30%. Sweden (16,9%) figures close to the European average (16,1%) whereas Austria (9,7%) scores slightly better (Statista Online 2018). It is in cities, and particularly in urban peripheries where parts of the lower socio-economic brackets dwell, where challenges of youth unemployment need to be actively identified and addressed. UN Habitat proposes a three step procedure as regards:  (1) national or city-level empirical research on the challenges and opportunities of urban youth populations; (2) national or city-level workshops to discuss the results of the research on urban youth; and (3) participatory policy formulation of a national or city urban youth strategy, which encompases skills development, job creation, sports, and recreation. With the focus on urban productivity, the Academic Year 2020 features international scholars with a specific expertise in considering new public space, and its economic role to foster social innovation particularly for the young world population. How can labour market access be improved through open source and open culture-based practices of co-production, and how can the field of spatial arts, informed by empirical evidence and theoretical debate from the social sciences and urban empirical research, provide new paths of employment? Particularly  performative, design-built and hands-on approaches in urban design that bridge existing educational and language divides shall be explored and promoted. Scientific perspectives from e.g. sociology of labour, or socio-economic perspectives on current ways of labour market restructuring including related spatial features, will be needed in order to tackle this key challenge of 21st century urbanization. Specifically the fields of architecture and urban design, if rethought along the challenge of providing labour markets for future urban generations, can make a very particular contribution in adding their responsibility to respond to these crucial challenges.

Statista Online (2018) Youth unemployment rate in EU countries January 2018.
UN Habitat Online (2018)  Youth.