In this study, European Social Fund (ESF) projects for “increased labour supply” havebeen analysed from a broad labour market and work environment perspective. The projects should, according their commission, be an area for the development of methods and cooperation for the inclusion of unemployed people in working life. However, this area also represents a place of work and a work environment that must function properly to generate innovative and sustainable solutions for social inclusion and cohesion. The work within the projects is also influenced by several other coherent factors, such as the cofinancing system, the recruitment of participants and their health condition. The aim of the projects is also to prepare the participants for the transition into working life. In principle, the labour market can be approached from two different perspectives: an individual or a collective perspective. Or, to be more to the point: should the individual participants “sell” themselves on the labour market or should they primarily be prepared to act on the basis of their collective rights and obligations?
A key finding in the study is that the system for co-financing, which mainly is based on the individual participant, is a structural problem for the projects – a “Catch 22”. If a participant leaves the project, for example if he/she gets a job, the project will lose the co-financing related to this person. The system presupposes established contacts and routines between the projects and the social authorities that provide them with participants, but this dialogue is not always present. In fact, recruiting participants is a problem for many projects, despite high unemployment among the target groups. These conditions may also increase competition between the projects and thus impede cooperation and networking. The conclusion is that the state needs to radically change the system for co-financing.
Moreover, this study indicates that the projects need to pay more attention to work environment issues, including the localisation of the projects, to prevent them from being isolated “islands” in society. A vital debate on work environment and other labour market issues is also necessary to prepare the participants for their entry into the labour market.
Essentially, the participants need to be more prepared to act on the basis of their collective rights and obligations as employees, as is laid down in labour law and collective agreements. The individual-oriented perspective is necessary to encourage the participants to approach the labour market again and to actively seek jobs or education. However, if the purpose is sustainable solutions for their inclusion into the labour market, the participants also need to know their collective rights and value as employees, as well as how to express their demands in working life.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2011. , 67 p.