Recognising the value of the over-45s and getting them back into work is becoming increasingly important all over Europe. Training alone is not enough; it must be integrated with other policies and tailored to meet the needs of the worker, and the real demands of the job market. The Italian project PARI - Action Programme for the Re-employment of Disadvantaged Workers - may represent a good practice to be reproduced in other countries.
The integration of training with other employment policies is often a recipe for success. This is true of the Italian PARI programme for the reintegration of disadvantaged workers. Promoted and financed by the Ministry of Employment and launched in 18 regions, PARI was started in 2005 with the aim of helping the over-45s back into work, in line with the objectives set by the Lisbon Strategy. The programme is based on a need to put in place active policies to re-employ workers affected by the economic crisis and companies struggling for survival. One-third of Europe´s unemployed are now aged over 40. In Italy, 4 workers out of 10 (of those excluded from the production chain, including those receiving payments from redundancy funds) are aged over 50: too old to find a new job and too young to receive a pension. Meanwhile, the average age of the working population is rising; over the next decade, the number of people aged between 50 and 64 is set to increase by at least 12 million, against a reduction of over 9 million in the number of people aged 15-29.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The programme activates a system of services, incentives and training vouchers designed to place people in employment. Workers receive a "training fund" of €1000, so that they can improve and update their skills at training centres or with their prospective employers, so that their skills can be tailored to meet company requirements. The programme also includes income support for workers who do not receive unemployment benefits, and the worker can choose to add this amount to the training fund. The key to the programme´s success is developing the worker´s sense of responsibility. The worker signs a "service agreement" which helps him or her to acknowledge the situation.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS INVOLVED?
The re-employment route is not the same for all workers. It is modelled to individual needs, skills and aptitudes. The courses themselves are not general or generic, but are targeted to meet objectives related specifically to the industry which the worker wishes to rejoin, or the company that will employ him. A careful study of the actual job opportunities in the local area is an extremely important factor, but the worker must also be assisted in drawing up a personal career plan and implementing an "induction plan" until he or she actually finds a new job. The programme begins with an introductory discussion, after which a "skills portfolio" is put together, through structured interviews and socio-cultural profiling. Re-introduction to the job market can take two forms: in-house employment or business start-up. The business start-up option is aimed at workers or groups of workers suited to the concept of self-employment is feasible - this depends on their personal and professional profiles and the local industrial context.
WHICH STAKEHOLDERS ARE INVOLVED?
Apart from the Ministry of Employment, assisted by Italia Lavoro SpA, the programme involves active collaboration between the regional, provincial and municipal authorities, training centres, industrial associations, Chambers of Commerce, trade unions, employment centres and recruitment agencies.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
Of the 36,000 workers from the 18 regions involved in the programme between 2005 and 2007, approximately 27,000 have completed re-employment programmes. Of these 10,259 have found jobs, 70% of which are on a permanent basis.
COULD THIS BE A GOOD PRACTICE?
On the basis of the results obtained in the two trial years, PARI is considered not only a good practice in Italy, but also at European level. It is helping to diffuse a new approach based on a combination of active and passive measures, associated with local development policies and the workers´ right to protection. The programme´s success is also thanks to the creation of a network and a system of governance between the institutions and employers, which produces mainstreaming effects. A particularly innovative feature of the programme is the "service agreement", which the worker and the employment centre sign in order to agree their respective responsibilities regarding the re-employment process, thus encouraging the worker to play an active part. Over the next seven years, it will become increasingly important to recognise the value of the over-45s, who should be seen as people who can bring experience, capability and skills to the workplace. Projects of this type will be essential to soften the impact of redundancies and to promote the over-45s.
(InfoNet - Teresa La Marca)