Transfer of public employment services to Catalonia and Galicia

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On 1 January 1998, responsibility for the National Institute of Employment in these regions was transferred to the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Xunta of Galicia. This marked the beginning of a new model for the administration of employment services in Spain, whose main challenge is the effective coordination of the different authorities working in the sphere of job placement. Trade unions have objected to some aspects of the transfer in Catalonia.

Negotiations over the transfer of responsibility for the National Institute of Employment (Instituto Nacional de Empleo, INEM) to regional authorities ended in Catalonia in June 1997 (ES9706112F), while in Galicia an agreement was reached four months later. On 1 January 1998 the functions of placing job-seekers and the administration of employment policies that had previously been carried out by INEM for the whole of Spain were transferred to theGeneralitat of Catalonia and theXunta of Galicia in their respective regions. The specific functions that have been transferred to the two autonomous communities are the following.

  1. Placement: registration of job-seekers; registration of employment contracts (beginning and end); authorisation of placement agencies; and administration of the EU EURopean Employment Services (EURES) network.
  2. Administration and control of employment policies: organisation and articulation of the agreements with the Integrated Employment Services (Servicios Integrados para el Empleo, SIPE); administration and control of grants and public aid under relevant employment policy; and administration and control of workshop schools and trade houses (Escuelas-Taller y Casas de Oficio)- a national training scheme for unqualified young people.
  1. Ownership of national centres of occupational vocational training.

The only function that has not been transferred is the administration of contributory and non-contributory unemployment benefits. On this point there is, however, a difference between the two autonomous communities. In Galicia, INEM remains responsible for the whole process of administration of these benefits (information, procedures, recognition and payment of the benefit) whereas in Catalonia the first two functions - information and procedures - have been transferred to the Generalitat.

Therefore, although the old offices and staff of INEM have been transferred to the Generalitat and the Xunta, in all of them a benefits unit has been maintained that continues to belong to INEM, and in Galicia this affects a higher percentage of staff than in Catalonia.

Coordination with existing employment services

In both Catalonia and in Galicia there already existed an employment service before the transfer of INEM: the Catalan Job Service (Servei Català de Colocació, SCC) and the Galician Job Service (Servicio Galego de Colocación, SGC) have been operating for years under the terms of Royal Decree 735/1995 of 5 May 1995 on non-profit-making employment agencies. Both services are composed of a large network of collaborating centres, that is to say, public and private entities that carry out job placements. The collaborating centres charge their services directly to the regional administration, so the unemployed people who use them do not have to pay for their services.

One of the main challenges arising from the transfer is therefore the effective coordination between these employment services and INEM offices, and during February 1998 there has been a wide debate in Catalonia on this topic. Since the agreement on the transfer of the INEM to Catalonia was made public, the trade unions have been pressing the Generalitat to create a single public employment service and have expressed their concern that it will end up being privatised. The news that the Employment Offices of the Generalitat (Oficines de Treball de la Generalitat, OTG), which is the new name for the offices of the INEM in Catalonia, were referring unemployed people to private companies belonging to the SCC network led to a serious conflict between the Generalitat of Catalonia and the trade unions and opposition parties.

The Counsellor of Labour of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Ignasi Farreras, considers the model of the SCC to be a valid one that has been exported to other countries and autonomous communities. Moreover, he states that the SCC has proved its effectiveness by dealing with 80,000 job offers and applications last year compared with the 20,000 offers processed by INEM.

The trade union organisations, on the other hand, have seriously criticised the way in which the transfer has been carried out, and have protested against what they consider to be the tendency to privatise public employment services. They argue that the pattern on which the SCC is based may be discriminatory in providing access to work, because the collaborating centres of the SCC give preference to younger and better qualified job-seekers, since this makes it easier for them to meet the minimum labour market insertion levels demanded by the Generalitat. The unions also question the use that the collaborating entities may make of the database of job-seekers, although the Generalitat states that the data are used exclusively for labour market insertion. Finally, they demand a greater involvement of the social partners in the design and implementation of employment policies.

In response to the severe reaction of the social partners, the Generalitat decided to withdraw some of its initial instructions, such as the instruction that unemployment benefit could be managed through the offices of the SCC. It also agreed to consider the SCC as a complementary service to the public employment service that would only perform tasks that are outside the scope of the OTGs.

However, the negotiations have not been closed. The union representatives continue to demand the reinforcement of the OTGs and the consequent reduction in the role of the companies that work for the SCC. As of Thursday 5 February, a series of demonstrations are to be held on the first Thursday of every month in front of the Generalitat of Catalonia until an agreement is reached.

Commentary

The transfer of INEM to the Catalan and Galician governments is a pilot scheme for the transfer of employment powers to other regional governments in Spain. It is therefore fundamentally important to construct a valid model that allows effective coordination of the different entities involved in labour market mediation: between the public administration and private companies, between the central and autonomous governments, and between the autonomous and local governments.

Initial experience of the transfer in Catalonia and Galicia has raised questions that must be resolved through dialogue amongst all the parties involved. The debate will focus mainly on the need to find formulae for reconciling equal opportunities in access to employment and priority attention to the least-favoured groups on the labour market with the need to build an efficient and effective placement system that can deal with a high volume of job-seekers. (Claudia Vallvé, CIREM Foundation)

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