Long-term unemployment: 2 years after the Council Recommendations

The extreme vulnerability of the long-term unemployed (LTU) has long been a cause of serious concern at both European and national level. In spite of the improvement on the labour market and substantial falls in unemployment in the last few years, the long-term unemployment rate remains higher than before the crisis (2008) in most Member States. In the last quarter of 2017, nearly 8.2 million Europeans had been unemployed for a year or more, 5.1 million of whom had been unemployed for more than two years. Some 44% of total unemployment in Europe is long-term, and despite the recent improvements the picture is particularly bleak in countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus and Slovakia.

As part of our work on the issue, YouthProAktiv participated last 12th of April of the conference on “Integration of long-term unemployed into the labour market: 2 years after the Council Recommendation” organised by the Labour Market Observatory (LMO).

The event started with the welcoming informative words of the Labour Market Observatory President, Carlos Trindade, who underlined the consequences of this phenomenon on the affected people. This way, long-term unemployment undermines the confidence of both individuals and societies, shrinks economies potencial growth since it is one of the main obstacles for sustainable growth, heightens the risk of social exclusion, poverty and inequality and increases the costs of social services and public finances. It pushes down performance, erodes skills, generates health problems and worsens household poverty.

In his opinion, “Europe´s economic recovery has not been sufficient to radically alter the state of the labour market and bring new hope and confidence to millions of Europeans, including the long-term unemployed, who remain kept at a distance frome de improvement in living standars that economic growth should make possible.” As employment rate increase in many conuntries and unemployment rate decrease, the long-term unemployed become a potencial source of labour force.

Against the sombre backdrop and in the light of the Council Recommendation of 15 February 2016 on the integration of the long-term unemployed, The European Economic and Social Committee´s Labour Market Observatory has carried out a study on the implementation of EU and individual EU Member State policies in favour of the long-term unemployed in six countries (Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Croatia and Sweden) from the standpoint of civil society.

The study involved numerous representatives from the social partners, civil society associations and public institutions.

As Carlos Tridade explained, the study was based on the six Council Recommendations, which resulted in nine final recommendations:

  1. Civil society organisations should be fully engaged in tackling and preventing long-term unemployment, at the level of policy design and monitoring and through concrete support inmplementation. Their active involvement can help ensuring quality, effectiveness, acceptance and smooth implementation of reforms.
  2. Closer links with employers will facilitate the transition of long-term unmeployed people into employed people. .
  3. Special efforts are needed to effectively reach to the economically inactive people and register them within the employment services.
  4. Long-term unemployed need personalised support.
  5. Comprehensive individual in-depth skills assessments should be a first step to the personalisation of support given to long-term unemployed.
  6. Effective Job Integration Agreements should be tailor-made, action oriented and contain shared goals for both long-term unemployed and the employment service.
  7. Information about job offers and entrepreneurial activities should be given to long-term unmemployed in an accesible way.
  8. Services to support long-term unemployed need to be coordinated and integrated, to provide a holistic intervention.
  9. The implementation of the Council Recommendation should contribute to a faster, better and more sustainable integration of long-term unemployed into the labour market.

In the famework of the theme “Update on the activities of EU institutions related to long-term unemployment” several expert shared their views, tips and opinions.

Anita Vella, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Employment, Social Affairs and inclusion (EMPL) of the European Commission, focused the discussion on  the different steps that Council Recommendation stablished in order to come back to work: 1. Effective registration in the employment offices, 2.Individual assessment and a Job integration agreement. On this line, she also highlighted the importance of creating a single point of contact and closer links between employers, social partners and employment services.

She also outlined the ongoing work of the Commission which is mainly divided in three points; monitoring implementation through three different strands (Multilateral surveillance, Data collection, PES network), evaluation of the  implementation of the Recommendations and use of the European Social Fund.

Guillaume Cravero, Senior Adviser of BusinessEurope,  focused on different tips to prevent long-term unemployed to abandon the search of employment. There should be a broader investment into the real understanding of their needs, the mechanisms for their integration into the labour market, the creation of tax credit,  effective measures for education and training and more solid cooperation between public and private services and stakeholders.

Ben Egan, Adviser of European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) provided the audience with a positive description of the different measures that they are taking in order to create an inclusive labour market such us long learning opportunities and quality employment measures and working conditions like safety and work-life balance.

Finally, Brando Benifei, Member of the Commitee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament focused on young people  as one of the most affected groups within the long-term unemployed. He requested European solutions to a problem that it is spread Europe-wide.