Compulsory training for unemployed people

In a bid to reduce registered unemployment and to separate "deserving" from "undeserving" unemployment benefit recipients, the Austrian government is introducing compulsory training for 40,000 unemployed people from 1 April 1999.

People who are made unemployed more than three times a year and are then always re-employed by the same company will from 1 April 1999 be obliged to enrol for training courses lasting between four and eight weeks. The Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) estimates that the number affected will be about 7,000. A second, much larger group of around 33,000 people who have been unemployed for more than six months will come under the same obligation. The penalty for not attending will be a suspension of unemployment benefits.

Training will be directed not at industrial skills but at presentational skills. The term used to describe the course contents is "job coaching". An extra ATS 336 million has been made available to the AMS by the government for the training.

The aim of these new measures is to reduce registered unemployment and to separate "deserving" from "undeserving" benefit recipients. Most of the 7,000 intermittently unemployed people concerned are thought to be the spouses of entrepreneurs or other members of their families, largely in tourism, for whom unemployment benefit serves as a subsidy during slack periods. It is thought unlikely that they will be actually available for courses.

Critics maintain that the extra ATS 336 million is not enough to provide any serious coaching for the 40,000 unemployed people affected. The amount per person is only ATS 8,400, but will be greater if it assumed that not all the 40,000 will be willing to enrol. If they do not do so, then the AMS will experience savings from the unemployment benefits that it does not have to pay out. Either way, the 40,000 people will be removed from the unemployment register. The number is just large enough to reduce the expected annual average level of unemployment to below 200,000.

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