The two-day mission of the European Labour Market Observatory of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held meetings and discussions with various institutions and organizations to explore the application and results of The Council Recommendation of February 2016 for integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market. The mission's special goal was to record good practices, experience and innovative methodologies in the involvement of civil society in the fight against long-term unemployment. One representative of each groups of the EESC was included in the mission. Representative of the group of employers was Georgi Stoev, the trade unions were represented by Dr. Ivan Kokalov, and the group with other interests - Prof. Dr. Lalko Dulevski. The mission was coordinated by the administrator of the Labor Market Observatory Anna Dumitrache.
The mission of the Observatory covers six EU Member States. Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Italy and Sweden have been selected on the basis of the specific situation within countries to illustrate good practices and challenges in the EU. The problem of long-term unemployment in Europe has become very acute in the years of the crisis and during the recovery period, according to Eurostat, half of the unemployed are long-term unemployed - or persons who have not found a new job for more than one year. For Bulgaria this problem is also significant.
The first mission meeting was held at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with the Director of the Labour Market Policy and Labor Mobility Directorate Elka Dimitrova. At the meeting Ms Dimitrova noted that the cooperation with the Economic and Social Council (ESC) - as an institution of organized civil society, has been useful for the ministry's work for years. With its instruments dealing with labour market problems and particularly the part related to the reintegration of long-term unemployed into the labour market, the ESC contributes to solving complex social problems. The MLSP Director noted specific acts of the ESC, whose development was attended by representatives of the Ministry's Directorate, and after the ESC adopted the relevant act, the proposals were included in the Ministry's strategies and plans. She also emphasized the possibility of hearing the voices of not only other relevant institutions but also of other civic organizations through the ESC's consultations on the subject. In her presentation to the mission, Elka Dimitrova listed the measures applied in Bulgaria, as proposed in the Council Recommendation. Dimitrova said that the share of long-term unemployed in Bulgaria for the last one year only decreased by 25% from 99,000 in 2016 to 77,000 in 2017.
Members of the MLSP noted that due to the proposals in ESC's acts the ministry has formulated a new monitoring group "Long-term unemployed or long-term inactive persons on the labour market who have remained unemployed for more than 12 months". The question posed by ESC about individual work in a family environment with long-term unemployed persons has been interpreted by the ministry as a new approach to individual work with non-active persons on the labour market. Members of the MTPS also noted that due to ESC's analyses they have reconsidered the understanding of the long-term unemployed and long-term inactive persons applied until recently and, based on ESC analyzes and opinions, this group of unemployed persons is already treated as potential and reserve for the labour market. In the preparation of a new law on social enterprises and social entrepreneurship the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy evaluates the recommendations of the ESC and includes them in the draft act identifying the social economy as a reliable employment tool for long-term unemployed and individuals from other risk groups.
At a meeting with the two trade union organizations, the mission was introduced to their projects for training, literacy and retraining of unemployed persons, as well as the methodology by which the unions participate in the work of the ESC and in their interaction with the state in the direction of reducing long-term unemployment. Representatives of employers' organizations have also outlined their work on solving the problems of long-term unemployed through training, qualification and retraining programmes, etc. Both trade unions and employers' organizations noted their identical positions regarding the long-term unemployed, as well as the full agreement reached through the ESC documents, that one of the main reasons for this phenomenon was early school leaving. They also highlighted ESC's proposal to develop at the European level a long-term unemployed programme similar to the Youth Guarantee. Employers and trade unions' organizations reaffirmed the ESC's proposal that in the Europe 2020 Strategy should include a separate target indicator for reducing the number of the long-term unemployed.
At a meeting at the University of National and World Economy, the mission spoke with representatives of the academic community, the Student Senate, youth organizations, students, representatives of the Roma community and others. Specific recommendations for reducing long-term unemployment, included the elaboration of the Long-term Denial Strategy, the review and improvement of legislation by removing legal and administrative obstacles for the employment of disabled people, the establishment of a Consultative Council of the Human Resources and Social Protection Department at the University of National and World Economy with the participation of trade unions, employers, businesses and students, stimulating employers to employ long-term unemployed persons. Other recommendations focused on the development of micro-enterprises, an extension of the initiative "My first job" at the student level, more measures towards the employment of women in the labour market, etc.
The Labor Market Observatory continues its study in five other Member States, and will then produce a comprehensive report on good practices in the implementation of the Council Recommendation to reduce long-term unemployment.