Economics Minister Doris Leuthard, Swiss companies and trade unions joined forces on Tuesday to combat the growing threat of youth unemployment.
At a news conference in Bern, Leuthard called for increased cooperation so that young people could have a better education. She also advised companies to continue to employ their apprentices after their vocational training.
The call did not fall on deaf ears, with employers and the unions agreeing joint action was necessary to remedy the situation.
Young people, particularly those between aged 20-24, are being particularly hit by the economic downturn. At the end of March, 5.1 per cent of that age group were jobless, compared with an average unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent.
Leuthard warned that if the government and businesses rested on their laurels, the unemployment rate among young people could climb to six per cent by the end of the year and 9.3 per cent, or 30,000, in 2010.
She called on employers and unions to make use of practical training courses and "practice companies" where virtual business experience could be acquired.
The government has budgeted SFr494 million ($427 million) for such courses and companies this year, a figure expected to rise to SFr636 million as a result of the downturn.
Cantons and communes
Leuthard also called on Switzerland's cantons and communes to play their part in tackling the problem.
She said that young people without work faced a "big personal problem" not only on the financial but also on the human level, with the stigma of not being a part of the labour market.
Thomas Daum, director of the Swiss Employers' Association, said it was important in a difficult economic situation for companies to keep their young people.
"We can't afford as a society to have a lost generation or a group falling out of the labour market. That's a social problem. Another concern is that when we have a lack of training now, we will have a lack of trained people when business starts picking up," he told swissinfo.
"Switzerland is very much based on qualified people so we have to do something in the very interests of the employers."
The Employers' Association said education and training were "strategic investments" which were gaining in importance as a result of Switzerland's demographic evolution.
According to the Federal Statistics Office, the number of people beginning an apprenticeship will fall by 16 per cent over the next ten years.
Employers had every reason, therefore, to make bigger efforts in training and promoting the rapid and effective integration of young professionals into the labour market.
The Swiss Trade Union Federation said young people were the future of Switzerland and its economy.
If companies did not look after them, they would be missing out on investing in their own future, it said.
"Businesses earned well in the years of prosperity. The coffers in most companies are well filled so that they are in a position to offer those apprentices who are due to leave some kind of prospect by continuing to employ them," said the federation's chief economist, Daniel Lampart.
He said that apprentices who could not find a job after completing their vocational training should have the opportunity of receiving additional training, for example in foreign languages, technology and IT.
Such training should be actively encouraged, with the government helping to finance it from a third economic financial package which is under discussion.
swissinfo, Robert Brookes
The economics ministry says that young people are on average more affected than others when there is an economic downturn because they lack the necessary experience that companies demand.
At the end of March, 5.1% of young people (20-24 years old) were without a job.
The unemployment rate as a whole was 3.4%.
The Swiss Trade Union Federation believes that if nothing is done to combat the situation, there will be around 35,000 young people (15-24 years old) unemployed by the end of 2009, almost double the number recorded in March (22,128).
Switzerland's position is more comfortable than figures from the European Union. About 17.5% of Europeans under the age of 25 were unemployed in February, compared with 14.7% in February 2008. The new rate is more than double the overall EU unemployment rate, which climbed to 7.9% from 6.8% over the same period.
The economics ministry has just issued a brochure with information on entering the labour market aimed at both young people and employers.
Entitled Act!, it offers advice on what to do after compulsory school, for example professional guidance on a career, universities and apprenticeships.
It also tells employers what they can do and expect when offering vocational training.
The brochure also has details how young people with a minimum of two years' professional training in Switzerland can obtain permits enabling them to work in another country for up to 18 months.
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