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2 The contribution of structural policies to economic and social cohesion: results and prospects

2.2 Assessing the effects of Community intervention (1994-99)

Objective 3: improved targeting of the young and the long-term unemployed

The influence of Community action in helping young people, the long-term unemployed and those at risk of social exclusion to enter the labour market is limited by the relatively small scale of expenditure compared with national spending on employment measures. This means that national priorities have tended to determine the focus of programmes. In addition, the broad scope of activities covered by Objective 3 has made it difficult to concentrate Community support solely on targeted measures.

According to the evaluations carried out1 ,ESF measures had two kinds of effect, according to whether they were addressed to direct beneficiaries (ie people) or systems (changes in public intervention).

In the case of transfers to direct beneficiaries, the ESF helped to improve the employability of those in receipt, as measured by placement rates, or the proportion who subsequently found a job. In the case of other kinds of measure not directly targeted at employment, the indicators used include the proportion of participants obtaining a qualification or having a spell of work experience. Over the period 1994 to 1999, overall placement rates have increased, reflecting above all improved labour market conditions. Placement rates ranging from 30% to 80% are reported by evaluators, depending on the country, the target group and the type of measure. Where there was a causal link between participation in a co-financed measure and finding a job, 25-50% of placements seem to be directly attributable to the ESF.

The effectiveness of co-financed measures appears to increase when they are concentrated on groups with the greatest difficulty of finding employment. Participation in active labour market measures, therefore, seems significantly to raise the chances of the unemployed in older age groups (in the Netherlands and the UK), the long-term unemployed (in Ireland) and those with relatively few qualifications (in Italy) to obtain a job, while it appears to have only a marginal effect in respect of the young. The results also validated the programme guidelines on 'pathways to integration', which emphasise the importance of following a 'pathway' approach to helping people find employment. Measures combining training with advice, support and work experience, accordingly, seem to have more effect on employment than those not doing so. Support for employment appears to have a particularly large effect. Increasing the involvement of the most disadvantaged groups in ESF measures, therefore, could potentially both help to achieve greater social cohesion and improve the overall effectiveness of the Structural Funds.

In the UK, evaluation showed that the most efficient measures are employment subsidies and job-search assistance. Analysis of those completing integrated programmes suggested that the largest net effect was on older men, whose chances of finding a job was increased by most. Although an integrated approach is more costly, it is justified by its greater effectiveness.

In the Netherlands, placement rates were generally high because of favourable labour market conditions. The net effect of ESF measures, however was generally relatively small, except for the most disadvantaged participants, for whom placement rates were highest. The net placement rate in respect of training programmes was 33% for the least qualified and 25% for those over 40, while for others it was virtually zero on average.

In Italy, the placement rate of those who had completed a training programme was 51% as against 28% for a control group who had not followed such a programme, a difference of 23 percentage points, which, moreover, was increased to 43 percentage points once the different characteristics of the two groups were taken into account. Indeed, participation in a training programme seems to be the most important factor determining a person's chances of finding employment (according to regression analysis), ahead of the sex of the person (men being more likely to find a job than women) and the level of education.

Targeting assistance on the most vulnerable groups has generally remained relatively limited in respect of Objective 3: beneficiary groups in ESF programmes were characterised by a high proportion of young, the relatively highly qualified and those unemployed for less than a year, with disproportionately more men than women.

Countries can be divided into two groups. The first consists of those with large areas covered by Objective 1, where Objective 3 programmes aimed at combating social exclusion accounted for less than 10% of total ESF funding. The second group includes other Member States, in which the figure was between 20% and 30%. In the first group, measures tended to be targeted on specific groups, such as people with disabilities and ethnic minorities, in the second, exclusion was more broadly defined and more general integration policies were funded.

Overall, the ESF continued mainly to finance training measures over the period 1994 to 1999. The programming, however, allowed for some diversification, to include employment support, enterprise training, counselling and job search guidance, and measures within the education system to ease the transition from education to employment.

Evaluators stressed the qualitative improvement in systems and the ESF contribution to innovative policies. Although small in financial terms, Objective 3 has helped diversify policies for tackling unemployment. In some Member States, innovation was an explicit objective of programmes, through developing partnerships. The Objective 3 evaluation for Finland, for example, found that the ESF helped develop the capacity for local and regional cooperation, target the groups who were hardest to reach and strengthen individualised approaches to the provision of support. In other countries, the ' pathway to employment' approach sought to generalise the principle of an integrated approach across all employment policies. Finally, it has been possible, by supporting specific groups, to include people who are usually excluded from the ambit of policy.

  1. European Commission, Conclusions of ESF final evaluations, 1999

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