Guest pen Activation that penalizes the unemployed only leads to passivation

Relying on sanctions puts the unemployed person in the same position as a child without their own control, and it does not promote employment.

Sanna Marinin (sd) the government is feverishly looking for ways to improve employment. Last autumn, the government tentatively presented the Nordic job search model, decisions on which are expected to be made later this year.

The Nordic job search model includes contradictory and, in the worst case, mutually exclusive means. Under the model, the unemployed could be required to apply for a maximum of four jobs per month under the threat of austerity, but the sanctions for non-compliance would be relaxed – a notice would be given first and only a later graded period. The number of personal interviews would be increased, especially at the beginning of unemployment.

Research information employment is enhanced in particular by the personal service provided to the unemployed jobseeker. According to an extensive study in Sweden, employment is best promoted by job search support, where an employment office clerk provides the jobseeker with information about job vacancies in bilateral meetings.

Instead, mixed research results have been obtained on the effectiveness of the job search obligation. According to a study in Switzerland, increasing the obligation to look for a job is less conducive to employment than a higher-skilled jobseeker. The memorandum on the Nordic model of the Ministry of Finance states that a quantitative job search obligation implemented in this way would have little effect.

In Finland one employee of the employment and economic development office has more than one hundred customers. It is good that the government has proposed to increase the TE offices’ own labor resources. However, it will not produce the desired result if the additional resource is used for the reasons of the inefficient job search obligation.

It is not intended to remove from the unemployment insurance scheme the requirement that the unemployed must be “available on the labor market”. Here, the link between demanding passivity and sticking to activity remains: accessing the labor market often requires the unemployed to be restricted from studying, volunteering or developing their own skills in order to be considered ready to take up work.

In the 2018 Finnish Literary Society’s (SKS) writing survey, the unemployed described the imbalance of support and control related to activation policy as arbitrary. The balance between conflicting demands leads to the fact that the unemployed, in fear of austerity, end up not daring to do anything.

Labor policy the system can generate a lot of activation orders for work trials and coaching, for example. A digitalised job search and support system may still leave the unemployed to their own devices.

A policy of activation based on sanctions breaks the autonomy of the unemployed and puts him as if he were a child without his own control. Ignoring the will of the unemployed and restricting the development of skills do not promote employment.

The employment authority’s regulations for various unpaid courses and coaching can, in the worst case, hinder employment. SKS’s material also shows that internships can be interpreted against the jobseeker’s interests. The employer may think that there is something wrong with the applicant when he or she has not been employed in the places where he or she has been an intern.

At worst entering the intermediate labor market in the name of activation pushes the unemployed permanently to the margins of working life. For the unemployed, this means a break in confidence in life-supporting structures, a deterioration in self-experience, a limitation of functional capacity, and a narrowing of the future horizon.

What is needed now is to release the energy of the unemployed to develop their own skills and implement their own ideas, rather than hindering activity. There is a need to develop employment policy in the direction of personal service, while at the same time paying attention to the quality and permanence of employment.

Lena Näre and Sari Näre

Lena Näre is an assistant professor of sociology and Sari Näre is a docent of sociology at the University of Helsinki.

The guest pens are the speeches of experts selected by the HS editorial board for publication. The opinions expressed in guest pens are the authors’ own views, not HS’s statements. Writing instructions: www.hs.fi/vieraskyna/.

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