JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE

Employability and social inclusion

Since the economic downturn, unemployment is reaching unprecedented levels. According to Eurostat, in July 2013, the unemployment rate in EU28 was 11%, amounting to almost 27 million men and women unemployed. Furthermore, unemployment is hitting more severely some groups such as young people, migrants and people with lower skills. In July 2013, the youth unemployment rate in EU28 was 23,4%. The Employment Pack, Towards a Job Rich Recovery launched in 04/2012 aims at addressing this challenge.

Furthermore, the economic crisis has had severe consequences increasing the level of poverty and social exclusion across the EU. In response to this challenge, in February 2013, the European Commission launched the Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion (SIP). The SIP Communication urges Member States to pursue active policies prioritising social investment and the modernisation of their welfare states in order to address the unemployment, poverty and social exclusion challenges brought about by the economic crisis and the sustainability challenges posed by the ageing demographic trends.

In this context, JRC research work focuses on providing scientific evidence and policy guidance about how ICT enabled interventions and innovations can support addressing the above challenges in the context of the EU policy framework, and measuring their contribution in socio-economic terms in achieving the policy objectives.

Employability and Employment

According to CEDEFOP, it is expected that 90% of jobs will require some sort of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills, and today a lack of labour supply with ICT skills is a challenge in Europe with 700,000 uncovered vacancies by 2015. Furthermore, together with increasing unemployment, the gaps between supply and demand of labour remain high, while at the same time, new forms of labour (crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, time banks, on-line volunteering) are emerging. The key challenges for research and policy are:

  • how to increase individuals (in particular young people´s) employability;
  • how to effectively address the supply-demand mismatch in Europe, and
  • how to provide adequate support to enterprises to allow them to cost-effectively recruit and select new candidates.

The JRC's research focus is on providing scientific and systematic theory and evidence about how ICT-enabled processes and tools can support in addressing the above challenges.

ICT-enabled Social Innovation

The economic crisis and the sustainability challenges posed by the ageing population trends have helped increase unemployment, poverty and social exclusion in the EU. To help address these problems, the EU Social Investment Package for growth and social cohesion (SIP) urges European Union's Member States to prioritise social investment and the modernisation of their welfare systems.

JRC is exploring, in collaboration with DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, how ICT-enabled innovation can enhance integrated approaches to social services delivery in different welfare systems within the EU with a research called the ICT-Enabled Social Innovation project (IESI).

ICT for independent living and elderly care at home

European policies such as the Social Investment Package for Cohesion and Growth (SIP), the Employment Package for a Job-rich Recovery and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIPAHA), are driving the policy agenda for the coming years in the field of long-term care. Their strategy is focused on:

  • reducing growth in long-term care needs;
  • increasing access to and quality of care services;
  • increasing productivity and jobs in the care sector, and
  • reinforcing the efficiency of long-term care systems.

These policies highlight the importance of information and communication technology (ICT)-based care services in achieving these objectives. These services range from assistive to robot technologies, and include telecare, social networking, virtual reality and other online services.  Research has demonstrated their value in helping elderly people to be more independent and cope with their physical and mental conditions. ICT-based care services also help carers to deal with stress and to carry out their care tasks better. They can also reduce the use of more expensive care services, avoiding the need for hospital admissions and shortening the length of stays in institutions.

However, ICT-based services for long-term care are only being used on a small scale in Europe. Little scientific evidence of their effectiveness and efficiency is available. In addition, there are technological barriers for end-users, inefficient business models, and difficulties in integrating these services into the care system. These challenges have been identified in previous JRC research.

The JRC is therefore leading a programme of research to map and develop more systematic and scientific evidence on ICT-based services for independent living and elderly care at home. This programme aims to help European policy makers make decisions on how to design, implement and transfer successful strategies for long-term care, based on technological solutions.

Groups at risk of social exclusion

The Europe 2020 strategy establishes Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a core element for five of the seven flagship initiatives to promote growth in the European Union: the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, Youth on The Move, and the Digital Agenda for Europe, and the Innovation Union.

Europe 2020 Strategy and related Flaghships promote the use of ICTs to tackle social inclusion, from young people using ICTs to improve life chances, through raising the skills and working conditions for workers in general and migrant workers in particular, to systems for supporting families balancing work with care for elderly relations and to build industry capable of delivering solutions for the challenges of health and demographic change.

With the policy goal of addressing the specific needs of low skilled people, ageing population, unemployed youth and unemployed older workers, and on the mismatch between emerging demands of the Digital Economy and the skills available in the market place, key policy and research challenges are:

  • how can digital inclusion, digital competence, ICT mediated social interventions and ICT based social innovation for inclusion support inclusion of groups at risk of socio-economic exclusion, and
  • how can policy support these processes and the related actors.

The JRC has been, since 2006, providing specific policy support and research activities focusing in particular on Digital Inclusion initiatives and the enabling role of ICTs for inclusion and on Social Inclusion initiatives making use of ICTs.

Intermediary actors

The implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) will require a sustained level of commitment at both EU and Member States level. It can not succeed without a major contribution by other stakeholders". In particular, the implementation of the 2.6.1 Digital Literacy and Skills objectives for empowerment and emancipation calls for multi-stakeholder partnerships, ICT training and certification outside formal education systems.

In this context, digital inclusion and social inclusion actors such as Public Internet Access Points, public libraries, Third Sector organisations including NGOs as well as social workers, in a word, eInclusion "intermediaries" play a crucial role, both in providing Digital literacy to excluded groups as well as using ICT to support social inclusion of groups at risk of exclusion such as to acquire new skills (through eLearning platforms) or for employment.#

The key policy and research challenges are:

  • a)to understand and characterise the diverse set of actors involved in implementing eInclusion policies;
  • b) the need for evidence about the socio-economic impact of eInclusion intermediaries on the target groups; and
  • c) the lack of both available methodologies and practice in measuring the impact of those actors.

Safe mobility for the visually impaired

Moving independently and securily in our cities is often a challenge for the visually impaired people. The JRC has developed SESAMONET, a secure and safe mobility network based on micro-chips embedded in the ground containing information about the path. A walking stick can read the signal of each micro-chip.

More information: Secure and Safe Mobility Network (SESAMONET)

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