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Job Centres: Reform or Revolution?

Published on August 30, 2012 by: in: Society

On the pages of Gazeta Wyborcza, Jacek Męcina, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy, announced “the revolution” in the functioning of one of the most bizarre institution of our country, that is the job centres. The question is if this will be indeed a revolution or rather some cosmetic changes, as job centres need either a real revolution or replacement with wholly different institutions.

picture: matthew.devale

So what changes are predicted by Jacek Męcina? The Deputy Minister wants to increase the efficiency of job centres by deduction of tasks that concern administering people with ‘unemployed’ status who in fact don’t seek job for various reasons. Above all, these are people who register as unemployed just in order to be entitled to acquire health insurance. The Minister claims that the costs of the service for these people are so high that it is more effective to grant the health insurance simply to all people who don’t work. I have to admit that I would like to familiarize myself with thorough economical analyses or examples from other countries which would confirm this thesis. If this is indeed true, I see this alteration as positive.

The second modification would pertain to introducing three categories of persons who are registered as unemployed: a) economically active persons, who are temporarily out of the labour market and need a simple service of an employment agency; b) persons remaining longer without a job, who need support in enhancing their qualifications – such people would be sent to various training courses (therefore, the funds for training people wouldn’t be wasted by the first group, which in fact doesn’t need it); c) persons functioning outside the labour market for a long time and socially excluded persons, whose needs exceed the support offered by job centres – these people shall be taken under the common protection of welfare centres’ conglomerates, NGO organizations and, only to some extent, job centres. This change seems rational. But…

My question is: Are job centres prepared for performing diversified functions and implementing internal reforms? I am under the impression that they aren’t. They constitute a fossilized structure accustomed to bureaucratic administration and not to fulfilling tasks. Unfortunately, they are also rather underpaid. Wouldn’t it be better then, if the functions performed by job centres would be taken over by private employment agencies and training centres cooperating with them, which would be paid by the state for the effect, that is finding a job for their client?  In order not to discriminate against those who are the least prepared, the state’s payments could be divided into two instalments; for instance, 50% for taking the unemployed under the agency’s wings and 50% after finding a job for them. The unemployed person would receive the welfare benefits after registration in a private agency. These companies would have to compete for their clients, namely the unemployed, by offering the best possible service and by the effective search for jobs, in order to acquire the second installment of the state’s grant. And the persons who are unemployed for a long time, socially excluded or with different kinds of problems should simply be handled by suitably prepared welfare centres.

Agencies which I write about should take advantage of the German concept, which has been recently described by Marzena Haponiuk in the web portal of Instytut Obywatelski. It is about disapproving of the jobless’ habit of idleness, which is extremely difficult to break. Therefore, apart from seeking the target job, the agencies should also have devices for directing people to transitory occupation, which is poorly-paid and easy, but would prevent the unemployed from losing proficiency.

I am convinced that such competitive and rational system would achieve far greater efficiency than the bureaucratic one. So, maybe indeed it is time for a revolution in this area, not a reform?

Translation: Anna Żelichowska

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About Błażej Lenkowski

Graduate of International Relations at The Faculty of International and Political Science Studies of the University of Lodz; president of Industrial Foundation the publisher of Liberte!; entrepreneur.

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