European Commission wants to improve the situation of long-term unemployed

The European Commission has presented a proposal to improve the services provided to long-term unemployed. While long-term unemployment has sharply risen in recent years, it is a particular problem for older workers, as 60% of older unemployed have been so longer than one year. The Commission proposes

Main challenges: fragmentation of services, lack of registration, inadequate programmes

In the proposal for a recommendation of the Council of the EU, the European Union summarises the main challenges facing long-term unemployed in the EU: they may not be covered by active labour market programmes that are directed to them, the programmes do not focus on their needs, services are not individualised and instead of being dealt with by unemployment agencies, they are transferred to social assistance authorities.

Recommendation: single point of contact, in-depth assessment and integration agreement after 18 months

The proposal for a Council recommendation proposes the creation of single points of contact for long-term unemployed, to avoid fragmentation of support services. Also, an individualised approach with a job integration agreement, signed between the point of contact and the jobseeker after 18 months of unemployment, should offer a plan for return to work. The agreement should be the fruit of and individualised assessment of the jobseeker’s skills, job search history and employment barriers. These recommendations derive from positive practices that have been observed in many other member states.

Left out of the equation: skills upgrading and training

AGE welcomes this initiative from the Commission, which has the potential to improve the situation of older job-seekers who were falling between the cracks of social protection and social assistance. The recommendation took into account a number of reflections that AGE voiced by participating in the consultation on long-term unemployment earlier this year.

However, an important part has been left out of the recommendation – many older workers need upskilling and training, as many of them have been laid off in sectors that are undergoing restructurings. While the draft recommendations stresses that individualised integration agreements should cover the question of skills, no specific recommendation is issued to increase the offer and relevance of training opportunities. Reference is made to the 2009 Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in education and training (‘ET2020’) and the 2012 Council recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, but the initiative on long-term unemployment could have been an occasion to boost these processes further.

For many older workers, acting after 18 months of unemployment might already be too late to re-integrate the labour market. Also, it is not only necessary to accompany long-term unemployed until their first job: this might be unsuitable, precarious or not drawing on all of the job-seekers skills. It is important to continue the counselling even beyond the first job, so that the job-seeker can effectively move to stable and decent employment. AGE also highlights that the proposal should not lead to the further introduction of negative conditionality in the access to benefits.

AGE agrees with the Commission that the proposal cannot be a replacement to macroeconomic and industrial policies that aim to create new jobs, without which job-seekers cannot be reintegrated.

Further information

For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel at the AGE

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