The Catalan Government reforms the jobseeker model

The plan has a €420 million euro budget for 2012 and aims to foster quality education by changing the current system based on subsidising training courses offered by job-placement organisations and municipalities for another model based on framework contracts and grouping the actors involved. The Catalan Deputy Minister for Employment and Labour Relations explained that the new plan would include specific policies aimed at young people, the disadvantaged, as well as for the sectors and territories hardest hit by the economic crisis.

CNA / Esther Romagosa

February 20, 2012 11:49 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- On Monday, the Catalan Government announced a reform of its active employment policies, which help jobseekers. The new model will gradually eliminate subsidies to the job placement actors involved and foster their concentration in order to offer more quality and specialised training courses for jobseekers. It will also include specific actions to reduce unemployment among young people and the disadvantaged, as well as in the sectors and territories hit hardest by the economic crisis. The Catalan Deputy Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Esther Sánchez, presented the new ‘Active Employment Policies Development Plan of Catalonia (PDPA)’ for 2012-2013 in Barcelona on Monday. The plan foresees €420 million for this year, if the Spanish Government honours its commitment and pays all the related funds it is committed to transferring, added Sánchez. Besides, she explained that the current 1,500 job placement agents, including private companies and municipalities, are expected to work through framework contracts, as well as reduce their number by “grouping themselves” and sharing services. The aim is they should offer a professional training plan with a “more integral” approach, a “greater impact” and to a “higher quality”, stated Sánchez. She said that the PDPA has the full support of the main trade unions (CCOO and UGT) and the main business owners associations (Foment and Pimec).

“It is only a change of model”, the Catalan Deputy Minister for Employment and Labour Relations affirmed, “the model Europe has”. “We are not stopping subsidies, nor are we forcing the privatisation of any service offered by the Catalan Public Employment Service (SOC)”, she clarified. Sánchez explained that the new model will gradually reduce the annual subsidies offered to the job placement agents (being private companies or municipalities) that offer annual training programmes. Instead, they will be pushed to find synergies, group themselves and pool resources in order to work more efficiently together, become more stable and offer services that are to a higher quality and more specialised. The Catalan Government believes that only by grouping different job-placement agents can the companies providing professional training courses offer “good results across the Catalan territory”. “We cannot reduce unemployment without proper measures, we need focused measures”, emphasised Sánchez. Catalonia will begin the transition to the new model this year, in order to give the sector the “tranquillity” and the “Government’s assistance” to digest the changes. However, Sánchez wanted to clarify that “nobody will be obliged to merge”, she said.

In 2012 most of the grants will still be allocated through subsidies. However, in 2013, it is expected that the majority of the professional training courses will be offered by job placement agents participating in the new system. The aim is to end with all the subsidies in two or three years time.

The subsidies encourage poor quality courses, according to the Government

The Catalan Government considers the subsidy model to be “obsolete”. From an administrative point of view “it is very tedious”, it “generates many problems regarding economic justification”, and “it slows down the processing of grants”, summarised Sánchez. In addition, according to the Catalan Deputy Minister for Employment, subsidies generate a lot of insecurity among the sector agents, since they cannot know before the end of the programme if the subsidy allocation will be renewed or not (currently around 40% of the petitions are denied). Therefore, this uncertainty does not encourage innovation and investments made by the service provider company. By grouping agents under framework programmes, this uncertainty is expected to be reduced. Sánchez explained that currently the training courses offered to jobseekers are not specialised and connected to the reality and needs of the economic sectors; the courses are too broad, “they do not require much investment”. The new model aims to change this.

Specific plans for young people, the disadvantaged, as well as for particularly hard hit sectors and territories

According to Sánchez, the PDPA wants to be the “road map” of the current Catalan Government to foster employment through an “integral” plan. It not only deals with training courses, but also with professional orientation initiatives and insertion policies. The objective is to be able to individualise the job search to each unemployed person, adapting the services offered and the approach to the jobseeker’s individual needs, capacity and situation. In addition, the Catalan Public Employment Service will be in contact with companies more often to offer additional training courses and practical internships.

The plan has a total of 70 specific measures. Some of the initiatives with greatest interest are those focusing on reducing unemployment in those under the age of 30. People at risk of social exclusion will also receive special attention. The Catalan Government will link receiving the Minimum Insertion Income (RMI) –the grant given to people who have lost all their funding resources and otherwise would have no income at all– to the objective of labour insertion. In addition, the economic sectors that have suffered most from the economy’s slowdown as well as those geographic areas with high unemployment rates will have special focus put on them.