EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Adecco, Italy: Integration into the labour market of people at risk of exclusion – long-term unemployed


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Consultancy business services
integrating people at risk of exclusion into the labour market

In 2001, the temporary work agency Adecco established the Adecco Foundation for equal opportunities. This Foundation has introduced programmes aimed at developing integration paths for long-term unemployed people in an effort to get them back into employment. Beginning with an assessment of the reasons for labour market exclusion, the company identifies, together with the worker, the most suitable training opportunities and professional path to upgrade their skills.

Organisational background

Adecco is a world leader in human resource (HR) solutions, with a comprehensive service portfolio which includes providing temporary and contract workers, outsourcing, permanent recruitment, outplacement and career services, training and consulting. Adecco was set up in 1996, following the merger of the Swiss company Adia and the French company Ecco, and currently has over 6,600 offices in 72 countries. Adecco Italy was set up in 1997 and with 500 agencies across the country it has become a key market player. The workforce totals approximately 2,000 employees, some 70% of whom are women. It has 18,000 client companies and offers work to more than 33,000 people. Since the law that introduced temporary agency work was approved as recently as 1997, worker representation is a recent phenomenon in the company. Some 22 workers’ representatives are spread across Italy, about 50% of whom are women. In 2001, in order to achieve better integration and more solidarity in the labour market, Adecco Italy launched the Adecco Foundation for equal opportunities. The Foundation mainly targets long-term unemployed people, single mothers, people with disabilities, people aged over 40 years and athletes at the end of their competitive careers. Trade union density is in the region of about 12%–13%.

Description of the initiative

In Italy, in accordance with Law No. 407/91, companies that hire people who have been out of work for more than 24 months benefit from a zero tax rate for a period of 36 months. In order to receive the tax break, the company has to employ the person on an open-ended contract. In practice, very few companies avail of this opportunity due to the quite rigid terms of the law. According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the proportion of unemployed individuals in Italy who have been seeking work for over one year is among the highest of the OECD countries, standing at about 50%. Adecco tries to deal with this difficult situation by offering special training programmes aimed at integrating or reintegrating people at risk of social exclusion back into the labour market. Although, under Italian law, long-term unemployed people are those who have been unemployed for more than 24 months, Adecco also takes into consideration people who have been unemployed for just one year.

In February 2001, in order to promote the employment of people facing exclusion, Adecco founded the Adecco Foundation for equal opportunities. In a first phase, the Foundation developed special programmes to emphasise human potential and the training of people with disabilities. Throughout Adecco’s network of agencies, many companies have been involved, going beyond the regulations of national laws. For instance, Law No. 68/99 stipulates that every company with more than 15 employees has to include persons with a disability in their workforce; this law concerns those persons with a reduction of their work capacity of 45% or more, persons with a handicap of at least 33%, visually and hearing-impaired persons, and war victims. However, not every category of disability is protected by this law, and companies can find ways out of having to comply with the law. Between 2001 and 2005, the Adecco Foundation helped a total of 2,818 people with disabilities to get back into the labour market, and 90% of those people currently have an open-ended employment contract.

Subsequently, the Foundation broadened its training programmes to include other groups at risk, namely, long-term unemployed people, single mothers and athletes at the end of their competitive careers. Different training models are used according to the various groups in order to optimise their integration into the labour market. According to the director of the Foundation, society does not consider the ‘status’ of long-term unemployed people. In many cases, such people are no longer motivated to be integrated in the labour market because they have lost their self-confidence and self-esteem. For this reason, the Adecco Foundation underlines the need for a motivational analysis and a reappraisal of the person’s skills by means of several training and orientation sessions, either individually or in groups. The Foundation dedicates whole training days to the reintegration of long-term unemployed people into the labour market, during which the following areas are covered:

  • Increasing knowledge of the labour market, including labour legislation, health and safety at the workplace, labour market reform, and the various types of employment contracts. It is important for long-term unemployed people to have a good understanding of the current labour market situation as very often they have become isolated from society.
  • Establishing a working project using such questions as, ‘what would I like to do?’, ‘what am I able to do?’, ‘what can I do?’, and ‘what are my objectives?’. Long-term unemployed persons often have a negative self-image and do not know what kind of work they would like to do. By defining their own ‘work project’, they are obliged to reflect on their own skills and how they can use them in the best way.
  • How to create opportunities which includes aspects such as how to write a curriculum vitae (CV), how to do a job interview, and how to analyse one’s communication skills. This third module helps to rebuild one’s practical competencies.

Another channel for entering the labour market is the vocational training modules. These modules are organised according to current labour market demand. The Foundation offers two types of training modules: the first one is dedicated to learning basic skills such as being able to speak in public, while the second relates to professional training aimed at carrying out a specific task.

The overall objective is to define, together with the participant, a professional profile in order to match it with the company’s professional needs and thus help the person to find a job. In 2004, through the agencies network, 521 long-term unemployed people found their way back into the labour market. In terms of gender composition, it was relatively equal with about 45% of women and 55% of men entering the labour market. More than 60% of these people came from central and southern Italy. With regard to the sectoral distribution, more than 50% of these persons found a job in industry while almost 40% entered the services sector.

The Foundation is responsible for monitoring the people who have found a job with a company; it also assesses the results in order to present an analysis of the successful aspects and the critical points. Various positive reports about the Foundation’s and Adecco’s programmes aimed at integrating long-term unemployed people into the labour market are evidence of their great success.


By means of Adecco’s set-up and know-how, its Foundation was able to develop pathways to facilitate access to employment for those people most at risk of exclusion. The various methods honed by Adecco – for example, motivational analysis and vocational training courses – are key elements in its success. The fact that the social circumstances of long-term unemployed persons are very much taken into consideration is a particularly important aspect of the training sessions. Long-term unemployed people often feel excluded from society as a whole and lack self-confidence. Through a motivational and skills analysis, these individuals become conscious of their capabilities and competences. The training programmes are diverse and may consist of individual interviews or group sessions; the latter is the case, for example, when the training focuses on team-building. Starting out with the personal goals of the participant helps to identify a training course which allows for a reassessment of the technical competencies that the participant already possessed and to adapt these to the development of today’s labour market. Through these training sessions, those people who are at risk of exclusion can find their way back into work and society.

Between 2001 and the end of 2004, throughout the Adecco agency network, as many as 47,577 persons at risk of exclusion were integrated into the labour market. Of this number of workers, 35,482 of them belonged to the group of people aged over 40 years; almost 4,000 people were long-term unemployed; about 6,000 were single mothers; and almost 2,000 were disabled people. Long-term unemployed people mainly found work in the services sector (47%) and in industry (45%).

Exemplary and contextual factors

In Italy, the labour market reform implemented through the Biagi Law No. 30/2003 aims to encourage and facilitate more successful access to the labour market. This is in addition to Law No. 407/90 which aims to help companies to engage long-term unemployed people. By means of the Foundation, Adecco has adopted specific measures to integrate long-term unemployed people into the labour market. In designing special training programmes that take into account a person’s social and motivational characteristics, these measures go beyond the national regulations.

Maite Tapia, Volker Telljohan, Fondazione Istituto per il Lavoro, Bologna

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