Employability and social inclusion

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.

Project: The future of work

In the context of the European Employment strategy, the Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, the Grand Coalition for ICT Jobs, and specifically in its 2012 EMPLOYMENT PACK, the JRC is conducting research to inform policy makers on some of the new forms of work and pathways to employability mediated by the internet.

This research focuses on internet-mediated work activity: crowd-sourced labour, crowd funding, online volunteering and reciprocal work exchange (time banks). These have been developed over the last 10 years and are now growing in importance.

Key themes include: opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-employment, skills and social inclusion, paid and non-paid work and employment transitions. These trends are of relevance to employment related policy related  temporary work, entrepreneurship and flexible working), skills policy, digital skills and access, SMEs, microfinance, social inclusion and public service delivery. There is considerable public, private and third sector activity in these areas, and many initiatives can be seen as models of social innovation. The result will be a report to policy makers in the fields of employment and social policy, and digital inclusion.

ICT-enabled Social Innovation for Social Inclusion

The European Commission launched in February 2013 the Social Investment Package (SIP) , to support EU 2020 strategy. 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 the implementation of the SIP, policy actors across Europe face a number of key challenges:

  1. understanding and maximising the potential of ICT to support the implementation of the SIP, through enabling social innovation initiatives and approaches;
  2. the need for support, in the analysis, from micro to macro level, of the social returns of (social) innovative approaches and initiatives in social investment policies, and
  3. the need for support to identify, select and promote promising social innovations by promoting the development, testing and further scaling, transfer and replication.

The JRC will carry out research to provide evidence and policy tools to address the above challenges in the following policy areas: Active Ageing, Independent Living and Long-term care, and on the perspective of integrated approaches to the provision of social services.

Social investment means enhancing people's capacities and supporting their participation in society and the labour market. Concretely, the Commission proposes: spending more effectively and efficiently to ensure adequate and sustainable social protection; investing in people's skills and capacities to improve people's opportunities to integrate in society and the labour market; and, ensuring that social protection systems respond to people's needs at critical moments during their lives. Furthermore, the SIP Communication urges member States to: develop concrete strategies for social innovation, such as public-private-third sector partnerships, ensure adequate and predictable financial support, including microfinance, and provide for training, networking and mentoring in order to support evidence-based policies.

Project : ISIS (2014-2016)

Considering the above context and challenges, the aim of the ISIS Project is to support the implementation of the Social Investment Package in particular by addressing how ICT based Social Innovation can support the implementation of policies promoting social investment, with the aim of systematically collecting and improving evidence-based knowledge in this field by:

  1. supporting  EC (DG EMPL – D.1) by providing meta policy -analysis, from micro to macro level on social returns provided by social policies promoting social investment;
  2. providing a deeper understanding of how MS can make better  use of ICT-enabled innovation to implement the actions suggested in the SIP by structuring in a systematic way emerging social innovations experiences, including through mapping and analysis of initiatives;
  3. contributing , to the building-up of the Knowledge Bank on social policies  foreseen in the SIP , by  channelling the results of the  structured social innovation policy analysis  indicated above,  as substantive  evidence-based  input to support the sharing of successful  policy initiatives, and the gathering of knowledge about successful  experiences in Member States.

In addressing these objectives the project will focus on the following policy areas:

1. Policy area:  Active Ageing and Independent Living, including Long-term care: Integrated policy approaches  
The research questions addressed will be: How ICT can support a better management and provision of LTC services at home by promoting independent living of older persons and better quality of live, supporting the informal and formal carers and enabling a better coordination and efficiency of formal and informal care services provision.

2. Policy area: Integrated approaches to the provision of social services
The research questions addressed will be: How ICT enabled innovation can support improving access and take-up of services, simplifying of administrations and better targeting of benefits and services,   and improving the coordination of service provision to focus on the multiple needs of individuals, through the setting up for instance  of "one-stop-shops", leading to a simplification and more cost-effective provision and higher take-up of social services.

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.

Project ICT AGE: Long-term Care Strategies for Independent Living of Elderly People (2013-2014)

The research aims at supporting DG EMPL efforts to help Member States achieve the political objectives of the 2013 Social Investment Package (SIP) for long-term care. Within the proposed work programme of the Working Group on Age of the Social Protection Committee for 2013-2014, and based on previous JRC work on how ICT can support informal carers, research is being undertaken to support the development of long-term care strategies and the promotion of independent living of older adults at home through technology based solutions.

The project has the following specific objectives:
• to identify in Europe, United States and Japan good practices of technology based services and solutions for independent living at home for different needs of older adults, which have been successfully implemented;
• to analyse the good practices case by case in terms of business case, business model, technology and organisational change, technical standards, quality, scale and scale-up, and national and EU role for leadership and transfer, and
• to elaborate manuals for policy makers on long-term care strategies for policies to increase the independent living of older adults with the use of technology.

Past project: Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion (2011-2012)

The Digital Agenda for Europe aims at the overall objective of having everyone connected and empowered, which poses special challenges towards disadvantaged parts of the population, to be included. In this respect, research shows that the digital games industry is expected to grow in the future. Developing a Digital Games industry can contribute offering a key instrument to fulfill these opportunities and addressing the key challenges set out in the Digital Agenda for Europe. Digital Games use the platforms and techniques of the videogame industry to create products and services and have a potential beyond the simple fun of playing may serve social purposes like inclusion, health, skilling, learning and other public services, where their action complements more classical approaches. Because of their ludic dynamics, they are usually very welcome to different kind of public (not only youngsters) and this is their strength.

The aim of the exploratory study was to better understand:
• what are the industrial, market, social opportunities and limitations of Digital Games for users' empowerment and as a tool for socio-economic inclusion of people at risk of exclusion (such as youth at risk, migrants, elderly, unemployed, low-educated);
• what are the technological, market, implementation, adoption and policy challenges of creating this potential and if and how policy actions could address the challenges identified.

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.

ICT for integration of immigrants

Information and communications technologies (ICT) have great potential to help immigrant communities participate more fully in society, through improved learning, social life, and access to employment. However, hard evidence on migrants´ usage of ICTs and how these support their integration in their host countries and communities is still very limited.

ICTEGRA project : Survey on ICT to support everyday life integration of migrants (2012 –2013)
In order the above knowledge gap, the Directorate General for Information Society and Media and IPTS are carrying out a study which for the first time will gather through a survey statistically representative and comparable cross-country data on the ICT skills, access and usage of 1500 migrants from the main migration groups living in 3 EU Member States.

The concrete research objectives are:

  • to identify ICT skills, access and usages by migrants;
  • to describe socio-demographic, economic and migration profiles, and find relationships between use and access to ICTs and integration, with cross national comparisons;
  • to evidence the support to digital inclusion policy initiatives or policy initiatives / actions on the integration of migrants through ICT, and
  • to elaborate and document the methodology to conduct the survey, to enable it to become longitudinal over time and/or to be realized across all EU MS.

ICT and Youth at Risk of Social Exclusion

Young people at risk of social exclusion are a priority target of EU social and eInclusion policies. This clearly reflects a concern that digital and social marginalisation might be critically exacerbating each other, what has, in today’s society, greater implications for younger generation. But it also reflects the increasing awareness of an ample range of opportunities for inclusion opened up in the digital world.  Statistical data shows that an overwhelming majority of the European young people is online, what is generating an increasing number of ICT-related empowering strategies and services, aimed  for example at enhancing young people’s employability in today’s turbulent job market.  The IPTS studies in these areas aim at uncovering the state of the art and exploring policy opportunities offered by ICT.

Project ISIS - Youth inclusion: Exploratory Study ICT-enabled social innovation services for active inclusion of young people

The general objective of the study consists of conducting research to review the state of the art in the domain of active inclusion services for young people with an specific focus on ICT-enabled social innovation services for active inclusion of young people to strengthen their skills and capacities and support them to participate fully in employment and social life. These services could be provided by public, private and third sector organisations in the EU. In particular the specific objectives of the study will be:

1. Characterise typologies of services or social innovation models developed or implemented in the field of active inclusion of young people.

2. Identify areas and/or services where ICT-enabled social innovation of youth can do a significant contribution to the achievement of the SIP objectives, which are:

  • using social budgets more efficiently and effectively to ensure adequate and sustainable social protection;
  • strengthen people’s current and future capacities, and improve their opportunities to participate in society and the labour market;
  • integrating packages of benefits and services that help people throughout their lives and achieve lasting positive social outcomes;
  • stressing prevention rather than cure, by reducing the need for benefits. That way, when people do need support, society can afford to help;
  • calling for investing in children and young people to increase their opportunities in life.

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.

Project MIREIA - Measuring the Impact of eInclusion Actors on Digital Literacy, Skills and Inclusion goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe

The JRC and DG CONNECT are conducting the MIREIA project, which aims to better understand the role of eInclusion intermediary actors and to create adequate instruments to show how they contribute to the achievement of European eInclusion policy goals. In concrete, the objectives of the study are to:

  • Characterise and map eInclusion intermediary actors in Europe in order to know better what eInclusion intermediary actors are, which services they provide, to which targets groups, how they operate and innovate and how they can be classified.
  • Build and test an impact assessment framework that will allow to systematically collect end-users micro-data through grassroots organisations and aggregate it at various levels, in order to facilitate the measurement of outcomes and the estimation of the impact of those actors on employment, education and social inclusion.

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)
JRC Institutes