Information and awareness-raising campaign, Lithuania
In order to tackle the issue of undeclared work more effectively, in 2009 the State Labour Inspectorate placed greater emphasis on business consulting, public information and awareness-raising. The activities were implemented through various media channels, such as radio, television, press, internet, information screens in shopping centres and public transport. According to the inspectorate, the intensified public information campaign created a zero tolerance attitude towards undeclared work in society.
In the environment of traditionally low income levels (wages included) and relatively heavy tax burdens in Lithuania, various forms of undeclared work appear to be quite widespread. The financial and economic crisis of 2009 has exacerbated these problems even more and contributed to the increase of the undeclared work phenomenon.
In order to halt the spread of undeclared work in the country and implement the prevention of undeclared work more effectively, in 2009 the State Labour Inspectorate of the Republic of Lithuania (VDI) embarked on changing the principles of its activities, placing a greater focus on business consulting, public information and awareness raising. It is expected that greater and more thorough public awareness of undeclared work, its harm and negative implications will gradually change public attitudes, reduce the level of social tolerance for undeclared work and, as a result, contribute to reducing the spread of undeclared work in the country.
VDI’s public information and awareness-raising efforts were implemented through various media channels, such as radio, television, press, internet, information screens in shopping centres and public transport, etc. All these measures helped to convey information to the public, employer organisations, trade unions and managers of certain companies.
The awareness raising campaign was aimed at informing the public about the threats of undeclared work, and risks and damaged caused by undeclared work with a view to building a zero tolerance towards undeclared work in the social and business environment. In addition, the above-mentioned media were used to disseminate information on a confidential phone line at the VDI for registering undeclared work alerts and notifying on other violations of labour law.
Likewise, printed posters, flyers, stickers on undeclared work prevention that were disseminated through regional units of the VDI, the State Social Insurance Fund (Sodra), the State Tax Authority (VMI), the Police Department (PD), the Lithuanian Labour Exchange (LDB), as well as local authorities, social partners and enterprises.
In order to develop early prevention of undeclared work, meetings with students were put into practice by inviting them to visit the VDI, meet the chief inspector and other officers of the VDI, take part in undeclared work spot checks, etc.
Mobile groups on illegal work control started functioning in 2011 (for more details see ‘Standing groups on illegal work control’). Media representatives were invited to participate in the first spot check. This ensured a broad media coverage of the strengthened VDI’s efforts in combating illegal and undeclared work. Likewise, the VDI regularly publishes other information on inspections conducted in construction, wood and other sectors. Prevention incentives and campaigns inform the media on the findings of undeclared work checks, penalties imposed by courts for the use of undeclared work, etc. The VDI is to continue similar activities in the future, too.
Though the public information and awareness-raising campaign is implemented under the undeclared work prevention plan, which has been approved on national level, regional VDI’s units and other public authorities are also involved in the implementation of this campaign.
Outcome of evaluations: lessons and conclusions
Achievement of objectives
According to the VDI, intensified dissemination of information in the public space and raising awareness of the harms of undeclared work increased, among other things, a zero tolerance towards undeclared work in society. As a result, there are a growing number of reports from residents on illegal workers.
Obstacles and problems
The main obstacles and problems most frequently faced while raising public awareness and information of undeclared work include negative attitudes towards such incentives on the part of the public.
In the environment of generally low incomes and heavy tax burdens as well as with few job vacancies, there are quite ‘favourable’ conditions to use undeclared work, as persons with lower skills or without permanent jobs often prefer illegal work and a higher net wage to legal work and lower net wage. In addition, according to the VDI, many people in Lithuania do not associate legal work with their overall economic situation, i.e., they don’t see declared work and honestly paid taxes as making a direct and positive contribution to the national economy. Therefore, information on detecting illegal workers or imposing penalties on illegal employers, etc. is often met with considerable negativity from the public, which holds to the idea that ‘people need something to live on’.
According to the VDI, measures to promote zero tolerance towards undeclared work are also limited, to a certain extent, by the interests of certain economic groups. For example, farmers, who are among those most frequently using undeclared work, made use of the VDI’s information campaign to exert influence on the authorities for labour market liberalisation by means of reducing employers’ commitments to the state and to employees (with regard to remuneration for work, entering into employment contracts, etc.)
According to the VDI, the incentives have once again proved the need for joint efforts from national authorities, social partners and non-governmental organisations to extensively raise public awareness by providing as much detail as possible on clear information on the harms of undeclared work, and the shadow economy in general, both for socio-economic development and for every individual employee in the country.
Further efforts concurrently explaining employees' rights and duties are to be taken to minimise the illusion of 'non-punishability' and avoidance of liability for the use of undeclared work.
As a result of increased public awareness and zero tolerance towards undeclared work, just in 2011, about 2,400 persons reported undeclared work incidents anonymously by phone and public e-access provided by the VDI; more than 800 were registered and forwarded to VDI’s territorial units for further investigation. As a rule, more than 50% of the total registered anonymous calls proved to be true.
In 2011, most of the phone calls received by calling the confidential line:
- were registered in the Vilnius and Kaunas units of the VDI;
- focused on economic activities in construction, agriculture, other utility, social and personal services, wholesale trade and retail trade, hotels and restaurants.
The VDI is to pay great attention to public information and awareness-raising in the future.
This practice can be successfully applied in other countries.
- Mr Gediminas Noreika, Deputy Head Law Unit, State Labour Inspectorate.
Annual report of the VDI, 2011.
Information on illegal work provided by the VDI.
Krumplyte J. 'Analysis of undeclared work: the Lithuanian case'. Business and Management 2010: selected papers. Vilnius,. p. 650–657.
Krumplyte J., Samulevicius J. (2010), 'Complex research on undeclared work: Theoretical aspects and empirical application in Lithuania. Engineering Economics, 21(3). p.283–294.
2012 Action plan for control of officially unaccounted economic phenomena. Approved on 14 February 2012.
GHK and Fondazione G. Brodolini (2009), Study on indirect measurement methods for undeclared work in the EU. European Commission, Directorate-General Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
Inga Blaziene, Institute of Labour and Social Research