As a distraction from the usual pandemic-centred conversations, today’s blog takes into the sunny, optimistic uplands of an idea that’s being trialled in Austria. Our story begins with the pandemic but looks at an innovation that just might revolutionise the world of employment for good.
2020. A shock of a year. Who would have predicted 12 months ago, what the world was about to face – a major health crisis leading to unprecedented medical, social and economic upheaval. Of course, the consequences have been serious for many individuals and businesses. Yet, those who have been able to adapt and innovate are the businesses who’ve been the more likely to survive or even flourish. The one lesson the world of business has learned is that nothing is forever. We should all be questioning our assumptions about what is normal.
It’s in this spirit that we look at one long-held assumption in particular – that full employment can never happen. Well, maybe we need to question even that assumption – which is exactly what the authorities in the Austrian town of Marienthal have done.
A guaranteed job for everyone
Prompted by the devastation caused by the COVID pandemic, The Public Employment Service of Lower Austria is funding a project whereby a universal guarantee of a properly paid job is being offered to every resident who has been unemployed for more than 12 months.
As well as being provided with training and help to find work, participants are guaranteed paid work, even if the state has to pay 100% of the wages. They will be paid at least the amount of the minimum wage, bringing their income level higher than social security payments.
Here’s how the scheme works. Participants start with a two-month preparatory course. This includes
- one-to-one training
- support from experienced social workers, occupational physicians, and psychologists.
Participants will then be helped to find a suitable and subsidised private-sector job or supported in creating a job based on their skills and their knowledge of their community’s needs.
The aim is to eliminate long-term unemployment by guaranteeing meaningful work for all - whether in childcare, setting up a community café, gardening, home renovations, or whatever field.
Interest in the scheme isn’t confined to this one small Austrian town. The pandemic has caused European unemployment to rise for five months in succession. UK unemployment is growing at its fastest rate since the global financial crisis. Unlike basic income schemes, this is the first trial of a job guarantee scheme; the Marienthal project will provide crucial evidence to inform debate and future schemes.
As well as economic costs, long-term unemployment takes a terrible toll on health, well-being as well as on family and community life.
Professor Maximilian Kasy, co-designer of the pilot study and a leading expert in economic research methods and inequality, says,
‘The idea of a jobs guarantee programme is an important addition to the toolkit of social safety provision, especially when participation is voluntary; and the jobs offered are meaningful. I am excited to participate in this first ever rigorous, transparent, and independent evaluation of such a jobs guarantee programme.’
How is the project being paid for?
The Public Employment Service of Lower Austria is funding the project. The cost will be just over €7 million. The sums look like this -
In Austria, a year of unemployment costs about €30,000 per person. This project is budgeted to cost €29,841 per participant. The employment activities generated are expected to generate revenues of approximately €383,000.
Could it work? We’ll soon find out. If it doesn’t – no harm done. If it does? Then we’re on the threshold of a massively change for good.
Here at Gravitas HR, we have a profound understanding of the world of employment. We have the expertise and skillsets to be your HR support, through the rough times and the smooth.
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