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					             Employment, Απασχόληση, Lavoro

                  Employment partnership

          Thematic report from transnational activities

Theme- working with employers’ or ‘sensitization of entrepreneurs’




                Edited by Ben Gladstone, EISS, UK
                            June 2004
Background

This report has been edited by EISS as the transnational co-ordinator of the
Employment partnership, a partnership of three EU Equal projects:


 Kent Equal Employability Partnership (KEEP), (UK),
 FOCUS (Italy)
 In Action (Greece).

This partnership has been working together since May 2002 in order to
exchange experiences and compare working methods on the practice of
supporting disabled and disadvantaged people towards training and
employment and enabling these people to remain in long-term sustainable
employment.

The work of the partnership has been divided into five working themes:

1. Accreditation of new skills and qualifications


2. Empowerment/advocacy/ working with beneficiaries, including recording
   their progress


3. Operation of structures, systems and policy development, including local
   employment plans


4. Working with employers to promote the employment of disadvantaged
   groups


5. Use of IT, including the development of IT systems to match potential
   employees with employers


Working groups based on each theme have been established and these
working partiers have met for one week on three occasions during the lifetime
of the partnership: in January 2003 in Italy, May 2003 in Greece and
September 2003 in the UK. In addition, there were two further visits by KEEP
staff and beneficiaries in Italy (October 2002 and 2003) and one to Greece in
November 2003.




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This report and the two other joint reports are the result of the findings of the
three of the thematic working groups and provide the evidence of lessons
learnt and future potential for continued transnational working relationships
post May 2004.


Further details on the work of KEEP, FOCUS and In Action Equal partnerships
can be found at:

FOCUS: www.coossel.it
KEEP: www.kent.ac.uk/keep
IN ACTION: www.eetaa.gr




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Working with Employers


Remit

This theme looked at the various ways that employers can be encouraged to
recruit project beneficiaries and can become active partners within the
project.


Thematic Working Group Members:


Toni Spain, Shepway Business Centre, KEEP
Peter Hobbs, Shepway Business Centre, KEEP
Guiseppe Iero, ANOLF, FOCUS
Pasquale Vita, Industrial Employers Association of Reggio Calabria, FOCUS
Prof. Domenico Marino, MPT Consulting, FOCUS
Achileas Anagnostopoulos, Technical Education Institute of Larissa, IN
ACTION
Kleanthis Syracoulis , TEI Larissa, IN ACTION




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1. Introduction

In order to better understand the differences in the way that the local
structures in the areas where the transnational partners operate, some major
similarities and differences must first be described.

Firstly, the enterprises that operate in all three countries are mostly (90-95%)
of small size (less than 5 employees).

The registered unemployment however varies widely. In the KEEP operational
area (County of Kent in England), claimant count unemployment is very low
(in the region of 2.5%), whilst on the other hand in Reggio Calabria, Italy
(with 26%) and Greece (national average 10%) this problem is more serious.

Therefore, the employment of people who belong to vulnerable groups may
be that much more difficult in regions of high unemployment, as employers
have many non-disabled people to choose in preference.


In all cases employers look at skills & experiences needed by them in the
workplace – matching using this method rather than purely by qualifications
that the people hold.


The first question that needs to be answered is how employers understand
the formal and informal skills that a person has.


2. Local structures


A basic understanding about the number of employees who belong to
vulnerable groups needs first to be examined.

In Greece, there is no overall data for employees who belong to the
vulnerable groups. However the number of such people who are entering into
the labour market is increasing the last decade. According to the records of
Labour Force Organization, 11,160 members of vulnerable groups were
placed with the help of programmes subsidised by Manpower Greece.
Unfortunately, the Labour Force Organization (OAED) does not have data on
whether or not these people remained in these positions after the subsidised
programme was terminated.

Finally according to the data arising from an investigation by the University of
Thessaly, it is noted that 27 % of the businesses in the total sample employ
people belonging to vulnerable groups. Thus, of the total of 1,827 employees
(full-time and seasonal workers) in the sample, 577 during their employment



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belonged to vulnerable groups and hence make up 31.58 % of the total
number of people employed in the sample.


In Italy 10-15% of labour forces are in the socially vulnerable groups. There
are some statistics only for disabled peoples.


When the problem of equal opportunities exists between vulnerable and non-
vulnerable people, a more critical question arises when the members of
vulnerable groups themselves undertake tests on the demand for labour.


In the UK, there are relatively detailed statistics for members of vulnerable
social groups. However, this data is held in many different places and there
is still no reliable national source of disability/disadvantage statistics. At the
latest estimate (Spring 2001), there were 6.8 million people of working age
(16-64) who had a long term or working limiting disability, of whom only half
(48%) were in employment. This compares to an overall employment rate of
74.9% (Jan-March 2004). In addition, disabled people were also much more
likely to be economically inactive than non-disabled people (49 per cent
overall compared with 15 per cent). Among the economically inactive,
disabled people were more likely than non-disabled to want a job.


According to research by the University of Thessaly, employers tend to be
negative toward the hiring of ex-drug addicts. Concerns of employers include
the fear of any contacts they may have had in the criminal world, their poor
productivity while carrying out their duties due to problems concentrating on
the tasks in hand and their frequent absences due to medical problems.


In addition, the research shows a negative attitude from Greek businesses
towards hiring people with special needs e.g. learning difficulties. More
specifically, 98 % of employers negatively approach their hiring.


Moreover, 88 % of Greek businesses were negative towards hiring repatriates
and immigrants.


Finally, reintegrated women and single parents are the two groups following
people with special needs that seem to have very low demand. As a result,
they experience exclusion from the work force as well as more intense
exclusion at a social level. Only 5 % of employers have positive attitudes
towards hiring re-integrated women and single parents (the majority of which
are women), while 95 % of those interviewed were negative towards hiring
members of these groups.



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In the Italian labour market, the demand for such groups is also not high.
This is despite the increasing efforts of many actors of counselling and
vocational training for women entering in the labour market. There is a very
strong resistance to employing workers belonging to social vulnerable groups.
Only fiscal incentives increase the attention of the entrepreneurs.


In South-East area of the UK, 6.25% of the workforce is estimated to use
illegal drugs and about 4% of employees who potentially depend on alcohol.
So people with addiction form a special case in the local labour market.


     86% of Greek businesses would not consider employing someone with
      a history of alcohol/drugs abuse as think have links with criminal
      world.
     Bias towards people with special needs in the work place is very high
      (78 %)


One of the questions, which should have been answered years ago, is how
enterprises and further societies treat people with physical disabilities. One
way of looking at this is the accessibility of the enterprises by these people.


In the Greek case, a high percentage (81%) states that businesses do not
have the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the working life of these
people. Thus, in four 4 out of five 5 cases, buildings in Greece that belong to
private sector are not accessible to disabled people. This is despite the fact
that there exists a legal obligation for these organisations to provide access to
disabled people.


From the Italian experience, for interventions to work they must be close to
beneficiaries themselves. The enterprises need support from other
organisations to facilitate access for disabled people. Firms therefore welcome
financial incentives.


In the UK seems to be high level of accessibility compared to either Italy or
Greece. In addition, the Disability Discrimination Act introduced in 1995 and
to be further amended in October 2004 is pushing ahead with further reforms
to create access to disabled people. Positive attitudes also appear for the
employment of people with disabilities. Even so, there is still a long way to go
to ensure equal rights and access.


The UK Government has recently published detailed proposals for the creation
of a new equalities body, the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights



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(CEHR) who will assume the responsibilities of the current Commissions for
Race, Disability and Equal Opportunities. This will allow issues of equality and
diversity to be looked at as a whole rather than focusing on single issues in
discrimination.


In any country people who face discrimination due to lack of accessibility may
go to the ombudsman or to the disability rights commission. However, There
is no available data of the results when people take this action.


3. Examination of service provision

In Greece, from the data relating to the classification of people from
vulnerable groups employed according to their category, it is evident that the
majority of the people were employed in positions requiring “low”
qualifications and skills.


The only category that differs significantly from the above finding is that of
the former unemployed youth where we observed a high percentage (33%)
holding positions requiring high specialization. In allocating this percentage,
we see that 16 % corresponds to tuition centre teachers (supplementary
education) which generally requires a university degree, while the remaining
17% corresponds to the area of sales which probably requires a high school
diploma or higher qualification.


The former long-term unemployed category covers a significant percentage
(75%) in the food sector and textile industries (39%). Positions in the second
field require low specialization (sewers). The presence of employees in this
category is also significant in the area of sales, however, with a small
percentage (8.5%) while the remaining percentages cannot be further
analysed.


Thirty-four percent of immigrants employed are unskilled workers, whereas a
significant percentage of them (18%) are employed in the area of education.
The remaining categories cover a small percentage and have to do with
positions requiring semi-skills.


When in Greece and Italy, family connections are the key to locating jobs
(due to smaller societies) whilst in UK jobs are much more publicly advertised
with much less personal connections. In this way, disadvantaged individuals
can become further excluded from work in Greece and Italy.




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In all countries it is easier for a disadvantaged person to be retained in their
job rather than entering afresh.


A special case for all of us was the attitude and the behaviour of women in
the labour market. In Greece, the 13.6% of women in the labour market are
unemployed, as opposed to 5.2% of males. This amounts to 242,000
unemployed women (and 150,200 unemployed men). The state recently
announced new measures to help female workers, including more part-time
civil service jobs (especially for mothers), employer incentives for hiring
unemployed women and better social services, including day care
programmes.


However female unemployment is growing precisely because more Greek
women are entering the workforce for the first time. Research reveals that as
female participation in the workforce grew between 1990 and 2000, as did
female unemployment rates.


In the UK, we find one of highest percentages of female participation in the
labour market in Europe, due to the flexible nature of work with many part-
time and freelance positions offered and surveys show that this percentage
continues to grow. From statistics in the UK (Jan- March 2004), women have
a lower unemployment rate (4.3%) than men (5.1%), which is the reverse of
both of the other countries.


In Italy the so-called “Biagi” law recently reformed the Italian market labour.
It provides for a flexible contract of employment that is very attractive for
women. With this contract, female workers can reduce the working time and
increase the flexibility of their hours. Research by MPT Consulting concerning
the shadow economy in Calabria and Sicily has revealed that the undeclared
work of women is partly die to their inability to obtain flexible contracts to
balance work and family life.


4. Skills of unemployed people


In the Greek labour market, generally there is an abundance of highly
qualified unemployed people, especially amongst the young unemployed.
Some employers actually perceive graduates as a threat because they are
unlikely to be moulded to what they want in the mainly low skilled vacancies
that are available in the economy.


The same picture is observed in Southern Italy, where the highly skilled
unemployed constitute a large part of the total unemployed labour force.


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However, the unemployed have generally high expectations in relation to the
job and in relation to the wage.


Therefore, the main problem of unemployment in both Greece and Italy could
be seen to be a lack of capacity in the economy to employ those with high
qualifications rather than a lack of skills.


In the UK, there are a high percentage of low skilled workers when compared
to many other EU countries. The South East Region has a higher % of the
population with high levels of skills compared to the national average. In
addition, there are a large number of people without basic skills i.e. poor
literacy or numeracy (22.7% and 22.5% respectively in Kent and Medway).
It is very unlikely that a person will be unemployed in the South East Region
if they have high skills. Generally in the UK labour market, highly skilled
people are in short supply and hence many sectors of the UK economy are
importing trained workers from elsewhere in the EU and further afield e.g.
NHS, teachers, and pharmacists.


5. The nature of employment


One of the major factors affecting the flexibility of labour market, especially
for vulnerable groups, is the acceptance by employers of part-time
employment.


Part-time employment is not common in Greece. Part-time work in Greece has
followed a different path than in the UK. Moreover, while the part-time
employment rate in the EU has been increasing during the last twenty years,
reaching 18 % of total employment, in Greece it has stagnated at 4 %. This
implies fewer opportunities to members of vulnerable groups entering or
returning to employment.


It is also important to mention that 44 % of the part-timers in Greece would
prefer to have full time work but have settled with this type of employment
because full-time jobs were not available, so that there appears not to be a
great demand for part-time work in the economy.


A lot of part time work may not feature on statistics in the private sector as it
is carried on behind the scenes. There is a lack of confidence and trust for
part time workers.




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Recent legislation allows for part-time employment in the public sector. A
2003-2008 employment action plan includes measures for the state to provide
some 25,000 part-time jobs, more subsidies and tax incentives, greater social
services (especially for women), training programmes for the long-term
unemployed, rent assistance and breaks for widows/widowers and the self-
employed.


Finally the data from the University of Thessaly survey regarding part-time
employment shows that the firms were divided. 49 % answered that they
would never use this form of employment. Due to the size of the firms, most
of them fulfil their needs for additional work either by working themselves or
by having the existing personnel work overtime.


In Italy, the social cooperative sector employs a very high percentage of
workers belonging to social vulnerable groups. Generally they are at the same
time partners and workers in the cooperatives. Social Cooperatives in Calabria
region constitute a significant part of firms


6. Difficulties of people with mental health problems to access the
labour market.


From research in Greece, people with mental health problems are unlikely to
be able to be employed, as it is not expected that they will work and there is
little assistance for them to find work. Employers realize that people with
mental health is part of special needs group.


In Italy a very interesting case study is the ASTO Cooperative in Messina. This
cooperative employs exclusively workers with very severe mental health
problems and produces furniture of high quality. However, generally the
entrepreneurs have a high degree of prejudice in relation to people with
mental health issues.


In the UK the % of people with mental health problems in employment is also
very low when compared to the overall employment rate. Of the UK working
population, only 17% of those with serious mental illness were economically
active (Office for National Statistics, 1998). Further research has indicated
that mental health sufferers also have the highest unemployment of any
disabled group (ONS, 1995).




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7. The public sector and employment of vulnerable groups


In Greece the legislative framework, besides the ratification of the
International Labour Conventions, is limited for the most part, to the creation
of mechanisms (e.g. LAEK) and to the, somewhat, fragmentary treatment of
the employment problems of specific categories (blind persons, prisoners,
foreigners etc), with the emphasis on their right to work.


After 1998, a more intensive legislative activity is observed. An effort at
approaching vulnerable groups individually is being made with the receipt of
special support measures aiming at acquiring occupational/vocational and
social skills. Incorporation and stability in the labour market, increasing self-
confidence and a general improvement in their lives and some further goals.


Planning, organizing, co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the
above supporting measures for members of vulnerable groups is the domain
of the Special Services for these groups, which function at an administrative
level. The Six Special Services (law 1836/1989) for the employment of
vulnerable groups in six cities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Larissa, Volos,
Iraklio) are responsible at the level of implementation of these support
measures.


According to Labour Force Employment Organization (OAED) (2002) 4,729 of
16,339 of vulnerable group members were placed through programmes
subsidised by the Greek government in cooperation with EU funding.
Furthermore, 11,160 people were placed with the help of programmes
subsidised by Manpower Greece. Unfortunately OAED does not have data on
whether or not these people remained in these positions after the subsidised
programme was terminated.


In Italy employment promotion programs support about 10% employees from
social vulnerable groups. The public support is a very strong incentive for the
firms for to employ the disadvantaged groups of the workers.


In the National Policies a great amount of resources are devoted to supports
the employment promotion program for disadvantaged peoples. In Reggio
Calabria, more than 5,000 disadvantaged people work in the social
cooperatives.




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8. Key learning points from the transnational partnership:


The key points that derived from our discussions in the transnational
meetings are the following.


  1. In all countries we must take lessons from the UK experience of the
     reforms of the vocational training.
  2. Most changes must be take place in policies rather than laws.
  3. Special measures must be taken for the prevention of the use of illegal
     drugs and alcohol in work. Measures must be focused on the causes
     that lead people to this addictive behaviour.
  4. The public sector is perceived to be the one setting the example to
     change      the    way  employers    accepts   equal    opportunities
     policies/attitude.
  5. In each country (especially in Italy and Greece) the informal networks
     must be enriched and can form the basis for more formal networks for
     the promotion of employment.
  6. The help that is provided by networks must be more personalized to
     beneficiaries, so as to empower people’s self-confidence.




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