Territorial Employment Pacts in Austria: the state of play

Territorial Employment Pacts (TEPs) are being welcomed in Austria as a means to focus labour market policies on the problems of unemployment. However, though by June 1999 there are already seven in operation, closer analysis suggests a lack of fresh ideas about how to tackle the underlying issues. The pacts' link to the country's National Action Plan on employment also remains partial.

Territorial Employment Pacts (TEP s) are an EU initiative aimed at stabilising local and regional labour markets in selected European regions by promoting consensus and cooperation between all relevant local actors. In mid-1999, there are seven TEPs operational in six of Austria's nine provinces. The agreement on an eighth pact is expected by September 1999. In the two remaining provinces, Burgenland and Styria, TEPs are under preparation. Burgenland, which stretches along the Hungarian border, is the poorest province and has the highest unemployment rate, whilst Styria has the highest rate of long-term unemployment outside Vienna. The first three TEPs were initiated in the three westernmost provinces, all of which have relatively low unemployment. However, all three experienced a surge of long-term unemployment in 1997. The fourth, also initiated in 1997, covers Vienna where unemployment is above the national average. These four pacts will all expire at the end of 1999 but will be renewed. The fifth pact, also in Vienna, and the only one linked explicitly to Austria's National Action Plan (NAP) for employment implementing the EU Employment Guidelines (AT9901120F), took effect in autumn 1998 and will run until the end of 2004. The shortest-term pact covers Upper Austria- it is limited to the calendar year 1999 but will also be renewed. The TEP in Carinthia is scheduled to run for four years from the beginning of 1999 to the end of 2002. The TEP for Lower Austria will run from the beginning of 2000 until the end of 2004.

Roles and attitudes of the social partners

In all the TEPs, the social partners are represented on the steering committee as the core interests involved. In most cases the provincial chambers of the Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer, WK) and the Chamber of Labour (Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte, AK) are present, alongside the provincial organisations of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) and the Association of Industrialists (Industriellenvereinigung, IV). This direct social partner representation is supplemented by the presence in all cases of the Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS), which is governed by the social partners. They are always joined by the provincial government, in a few cases by local government representatives as well, and in two cases by the agricultural social partners. In one case the Catholic Church's Caritas is involved. This is the only example of participation by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) on a steering group. Except in the Tyrol, where the pact area consists of only part of the province, the other pacts cover the entire province. The Tyrol is also the only case where the TEP's coordination was entrusted to three regional development organisations. In four other cases specially created bodies - quasi-NGOs - have been made responsible for coordination. Other TEPs, or plans for a TEP, are being coordinated by either the AMS or organisations attached to it, or the provincial government, or the two jointly. The social partners are not directly involved in daily operations. In most cases, the federal government took the initiative to establish the TEP.

Target groups and goals

Target groups and goals vary both in content and detail. The target groups usually include long-term unemployed people or categories of people known to be over-represented amongst the long-term unemployed, such as older workers, women and sometimes people with disabilities. Young people are also repeatedly mentioned. The goal is usually to find or create employment for unemployed people sometimes supplemented by broad economic development goals. In Upper Austria's one-year programme, the goals simply list the NAP's four "pillars" (namely employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities). Measures to meet the goals also vary in detail. They are mostly designed to create temporary subsidised employment in social or public services. There are some measures meant to improve employability through training or coaching, or by placing people in temporary work agencies run by the AMS and the social partners. In a number of cases there are numerical targets, varying between employment for 100 unemployed people a year (Vorarlberg) and 4,000 (Lower Austria).

Commentary

The 1997 TEPs came too soon to include references to Austria's NAP. Of the three concluded in 1998, the one in Vienna is unique in having an explicit link to the NAP. The TEP in Upper Austria borrowed its general aims from the NAP, though the TEP in Carinthia contains no such reference. The same is true of the one TEP to be concluded in 1999. The existing links are for the most part rhetorical, as exemplified by Vienna's arguably curious understanding of equal opportunities. Women are being targeted in proportion to their share in the population, hardly a relevant measure of their presence or their problems on the labour market and in employment. No measures aiming specifically to remedy female disadvantages have been included (AT9710136N).

The impression is that so far the TEPs are for the most part a vehicle to satisfy EU requirements for the partial funding of employment-centred initiatives. One hint about their nature is that neither their goals nor contents, and particularly not the partners involved, differ from traditional approaches to labour market problems. Few new partners have been brought in. Another hint is that the low-unemployment provinces in the west, long the most entrepreneurial in their approach to financing labour market policies, were the first to jump on the TEP "bandwagon". Yet another is that even the provinces with the lowest rates of unemployment have set up a TEP. The often vague goals and weakly defined measures are also evidence. Finally, the fact that two high-unemployment provinces are the last to engage in the creation of TEPs is testimony to the lack of fresh approaches that would require TEP funds for implementation. (August Gächter, IHS)

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