Tackling obstacles to long term unemployment

A new employment model tested in northern Poland supports the long-term unemployed or vocationally inactive in the 45+ age group, while improving the effectiveness of employment services. Originally developed in Finland and adapted for use in the Polish city of Elblag, it includes a general evaluation of each individual with a special focus on their health. Results are very encouraging: 80 % of participants found jobs and 90 % of them were still employed after 15 months.

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Europe’s long-term unemployed are seen as problematic and a burden on society. They are sometimes called ‘hot potatoes’, being passed from one labour institution to another with little success. For people aged 45 and over, this trend is especially hard to reverse. To date, public and non-public labour market institutions have tried to solve this problem through training (equipping people with vocational qualifications) and employment (finding jobs in line with qualifications obtained). But this traditional model fails to offer the necessary psychological support that people who have been out of the labour market for a long time may need in finding and keeping a job.

Tackling obstacles to long term unemployment

In recent years, a growing number of Poland’s older citizens of working age have remained unemployed, facing various obstacles in terms of age, health or disabilities. Under the Individual Employment Paths project, a team in Elblag called on tools originating in Finland and adapted them to create an innovative solution to this challenge in its own area. Elblag’s Disability Advisory Council (Erkon) and its Poviat Labour Office cooperated with Kynnys ry Turun toimikunta, a Finnish non-governmental organisation serving people with disability in Turku, as well as with Petrea, a rehabilitation centre in the same city.

Close cooperation among the Polish and Finnish partners – including study visits and the exchange of experts – resulted in the roll-out in Elblag of the ‘Supported employment model for people over 45 years of age’. It aims to ensure that participants who have been helped to find a job can also keep it. Only those who, in spite of any health or disability issues, are able to work start the programme. The rest are offered rehabilitation to remove any health barriers they may have and thus increase their employability.

Personal development plans

Thirty-two project participants (27 women and five men), all long-term unemployed, received a multi-profile diagnosis under the new model. This led to the establishment of a ‘personal development plan’ for 28 of them, including vocational training, psychological support and support from a job coach. Almost 80 % of these participants went on to find a job. That compares to just 30 % for people recruited through standard labour market institutions.

The job coach later succeeded in helping nine out of ten of the newly employed beneficiaries to remain in the workplace beyond 15 months, by improving communication and solving any problems arising between the employer and employee. This process is much easier for employees who no longer have major health problems, which is of course a major goal of the project.

Employers, the project’s key stakeholders, also benefit from this new model’s extensive support for ‘hot potato’ jobseekers. As a result, 60 % of the employers involved said they would be more interested in recruiting people aged 45 and over.

Now fully operational in Elblag, the supported employment model has proved to be an effective new tool and will be tested on a wider scale by several public employment services in Poland. It is also in keeping with the EU Cohesion Policy goal of fostering economic growth, as it boosts the employability of a section of the population that tends to be excluded from labour markets.

The model has already been disseminated at regional and national levels in Poland. Because it is highly efficient, relatively inexpensive to implement and requires little change in labour legislation, it could also be adapted for use in other EU Member States and for other groups of people who need support in the labour market.

Creation of an employment model that permanently changes the quality of life for the long-term unemployed, including disabled people, is the most significant benefit of this project.’
Eliza Popławska-Jodko, project coordinator

Draft date

25/10/2012