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Innovative ways to address long-term unemployment in Europe

Innovative ways to address long-term unemployment in Europe
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Long-term unemployment continues to be an issue in many European countries, but there is growing interest in finding new solutions. The report ‘Towards zero long-term unemployment in the EU’ highlights promising initiatives across Europe that could be expanded to tackle long-term unemployment.

Although long-term unemployment in the EU has decreased since its peak in 2014, it remains high in many countries. In 2021, 6 million people had been out of work for more than a year, with over 2.5 million young people not employed for a significant period. Research shows that the longer someone is unemployed, the harder it becomes for them to find a job.

Traditional methods have not always been effective in reintegrating unemployed people into the workforce. However, new approaches outlined in the report show promise as a policy tool for reducing long-term unemployment and improving the well-being of the unemployed.

Innovative approaches focus on creating jobs that align with both people’s aspirations and local needs. The social economy also shows great promise in finding new ways to address long-term unemployment in Europe. The report recommends supporting innovation that has a positive impact on both the economic and the social well-being of communities, rather than solely focusing on transitioning to the labour market.

Fostering a sense of purpose and community

The Marienthal Job Guarantee Pilot in Austria offers a universal and unconditional guarantee of a fairly paid job to all people unemployed for longer than 12 months.

In France, Zero Long-Term Unemployment Territories hire people who have been jobless for at least over a year, assess their skills and aspirations, match them with community needs, and create jobs that address those needs. It redirects the savings from cash benefits otherwise paid to unemployed people towards creating these jobs.

A similar approach has also been introduced in Belgium, with 17 zero long-term unemployment territories set to be launched in Wallonia, with support from the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+).

The Solidary Basic Income initiative in Germany aims to tackle long-term unemployment by offering 1,000 job opportunities to unemployed people in the state of Berlin for up to five years.

The Basisbaan programme in the Netherlands aims to reduce reliance on welfare benefits while fostering a sense of purpose and community. People are employed by the local municipality to undertake tasks that improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood and cannot be funded by the community or provided on a market basis.

Success factors and potential for growth

The main idea behind these initiatives is that long-term unemployment needs to be addressed at the local or regional level by directly offering people jobs on a voluntary basis, with fair pay and flexible working hours. This helps to build financial independence, professional growth, and better self-confidence for unemployed people.

Working with local non-governmental organisations also helps to engage with people who are difficult to reach through public employment services, particularly in countries where many of the long-term unemployed are not registered with public employment services.

Next steps

The authors of the report will present their findings during a webinar on 18 March 2024. The webinar targets policymakers at local level, social innovation practitioners, public employment service staff and other stakeholders working on long-term unemployment.

The report sets the stage for an upcoming call for proposals under the ESF+ Social Innovation+ initiative, with a budget of EUR 23 million. It will provide funding to develop these concepts detailed in the report, aiming towards zero-long term unemployment in the EU.