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Studying Factors Affecting the Unemployed

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What are the effects of Active Labour Market Programmes on the unemployed who have been assessed by their case worker to have problems aside from their unemployment? How can we measure whether Active Labour Market Programmes affect barriers that hinder the unemployed from entering the labour market? And what are the experiences of case workers and unemployed persons? These are some of the research questions in a PhD project at SFI which started in 2013.

Each year a substantial amount is spent on Active Labour Market Programmes for the unemployed. And a substantial amount of time is spent by the unemployed in participating in these programmes. In 2010, the Danish Auditor General’s Office published a quantitative analysis that showed that Active Labour Market Programmes did not have a positive effect on subsequent employment for the large group of unemployed who have been assessed by their case worker at the local municipality job centre to have problems aside from unemployment. Looking at research in this area it is unclear whether Active Labour Market Programmes have a positive, a negative, or no effect on the group of unemployed assessed to have problems aside from their unemployment. Studies typically use measures of effect such as subsequent employment or reduced welfare benefit dependency. But what findings would we encounter if the quantitative analyses instead were to look at the presence or absence of barriers affecting the well-being of and hindering the unemployed from entering the labour market? Do Active Labour Market Programmes affect barriers hindering the unemployed from entering the labour market?

New insights into the effects of Active Labour Market Programmes

A hypothesis is that Active Labour Market Programmes may affect the unemployed on factors related to subsequent chances of employment – even if the effect on these factors is not directly measurable using traditional effect measures. Therefore a part of the PhD project is to develop and test a new measure to be used to measure factors expected to be related to subsequent chances of employment. The measure will focus on barriers that may reduce (or factors that may enhance) chances of subsequent employment. The measure will amongst other things be based on theories of social marginalisation and the branch of literature on employability that looks at personal circumstances and non-cognitive skills. The PhD project also conducts qualitative interviews looking into the experiences of case workers and unemployed persons.

Looking at unemployment from several angles

The PhD project conducts qualitative interviews with case workers from job centres and with unemployed persons. These interviews are to reveal the experiences of professionals working with the unemployed, and the experiences of citizens affected by unemployment. The data from these interviews are to be analyzed in unison with the data from a large panel survey of unemployed welfare benefit recipients from Copenhagen. 4,800 unemployed persons between 30 and 58 years old were invited to participate in the survey. Data from the first wave of the survey is collected in September and October 2013. The second wave of the panel survey will be carried out in 2014. Combining findings from the panel survey, rich data from administrative registers, and findings from the qualitative interviews will, amongst other things, make it possible to: 1) paint a comprehensive picture of factors affecting the lives of the unemployed, and 2) analyze what different factors mean for the later chances of employment for the unemployed.

The PhD project is being funded by SFI, the Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen, the Employment and Integration Administration at the City of Copenhagen, and the Danish Ministry of Employment. The study is to be concluded in 2016.

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