Small steps away from long-term unemployment

Carolin Freier – her thesis investigated measures of social integration. (Image: Jutta Palm-Nowak (IAB)

In cooperation with the IAB, Carolin Freier researched new ways for integrating the long-term unemployed into the labour market in her doctoral thesis.

The task of reintegrating people into the workforce who have been unemployed for many years is often a complex one. ‘For some people, the first steps away from long-term unemployment are towards social integration which can then lead to a medium or long-term integration into the labour market,’ says Dr. Carolin Freier. Her thesis which was part of the research project ‘Soziale Aktivierung – Social Activation’ in cooperation with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) at FAU investigated measures of social integration.

Freier concludes: ‘It is important to connect the areas of social work and placement services and to expand the involvement of placement service experts as well as managers in the workplace.’

As an example, she gives a homeless person who needs to be coached on being more time conscious. During this process the individual may be sensitized to the importance of fixed appointments in small steps or learn how to structure their daily routine. Social services specialists and experts at the Jobcenters provide support and supervision during such measures.

Another example is a single mother who does not have the confidence to return to work. Meeting for coffee with other single parents may be a helpful starting point for gaining enough self-confidence to return to work comfortably. ‘These are manageable steps on the way towards an education or work programme,’ explains Freier. ‘It’s important that people are given the chance to prepare before even starting an employment incentive programme.’

Reinforcing personality, self-esteem and social skills

Social integration measures are actions which are designed to support personality stabilisation, introduce new channels of communication for working with the long-term unemployed and people with little exposure to the labour market and provide professional support in learning and improving individual social skills and strengthening self-esteem. This social activation process is intended to make an individual feel a valid part of society and to help them communicate effectively with others – be it in a future job or their private life. As such, it is a more complete approach in contrast to an isolated measure like application writing courses.

Building trust between support services and the long-term unemployed

Social activation measures also aim to allow the long-term unemployed, addicts or people with mental or physical health conditions to open up and gain trust in support services as part of a managed process supporting the individual development of a long-term unemployed person. ‘This way, specialists at the Jobcenters, workplaces and social services gain a deeper insight into individual circumstances which is impossible in a purely administrative approach,’ explains Freier.

The measures were examined as part of the research project ‘Soziale Aktivierung – Social Activation’ which was directed by PD Dr. Markus Promberger of IAB and FAU’s Institute of Sociology.

Carolin Freier conducted a secondary analysis of this research as part of her doctoral thesis at FAU. The thesis project was supervised by Professor Rainer Trinczek, Dean of FAU’s Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology and Professor Ingrid Artus of FAU’s Institute of Sociology.

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