Government sets new employment targets
The Danish government is seeking to speed up its efforts to increase the employment of excluded or at-risk groups in a new "inclusive" labour market. In a new publication issued in April 2001, the two ministers responsible for this area have called for changed attitudes on the part of all those involved so that good intentions are translated into concrete, practical work in local communities and companies. The social partners support this government initiative.
On 4 April 2001, the Minister of Labour, Ove Hygum, and the Minister of Social Affairs, Henrik Dam Kristensen, launched a booklet entitled "Everybody is needed - Denmark 2010 and a more flexible labour market" (Brug for alle - Danmark 2010 og et mere rummeligt arbejdsmarked). The context is a belief that in the coming years, Denmark will need all the people who are capable of doing so to work, so as to prevent higher taxes or a general setback for the Danish welfare society resulting from the growing numbers of older people and smaller numbers of young people. "If we are not able to create the inclusive labour market today, we never will be," said Mr Hygum.
The concept of an "inclusive" labour market is not a new one (DK0012108F). It covers a variety of job opportunities for those who cannot find employment on ordinary terms, such as "flexi-jobs" (DK9906130N), jobs on special terms and vocational training. In recent years, the focus has been on bringing as many people as possible back into employment by means of these various channels. Responsibility for these measures has been vested in so-called "coordination committees" in the municipalities, on which the social partners are represented. However, little has happened. The new initiative launched in April is an attempt to tighten up the targets in this field and highlight practical work in relation to the creation of the inclusive labour market.
The new targets mean that the municipalities and counties will, in the next few years, have to increase the number of labour market entrants from the groups targeted by the inclusive labour market initiative. The target is that 3.5% of the labour force will be recruited from these groups in 2003, compared with 1.7% today. This means that the number of long-term unemployed persons, immigrants and social security recipients to be integrated into the labour market must be doubled.
The potential target group thus covers a broad group of persons who - for some reason or another - are not able to obtain or maintain a stable attachment to the labour market. They could, for instance, be people with reduced working capacity, physical or mental disabilities, poor language skills or long periods of unemployment or sickness. The new scheme focuses on two areas:
- retention of people who are already employed. This could, for example, refer to people who are at risk of losing their job due to old age or sickness and who would find it very difficult to find a new job; and
- new employment opportunities for long-term unemployed people, persons with reduced working capacity and similar groups. These are people who have not been in employment for a long time and whose absence from the labour market constitutes a barrier to getting back into employment.
The two areas involve quite different tasks. Retention of existing employees requires understanding and flexibility at the workplace, while new employment opportunities require openness and continuing efforts on the part of enterprises in relation to these groups of people. This is one of the messages of the new government initiative.
The social partners have welcomed this new initiative. With parliament's adoption on 4 April of a pensions reform (DK0012108F), the ground has been prepared for renewed efforts in this area. The Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdgiverforening, DA) is happy to note that enterprises are praised by the government for having intensified their measures in this field and that the government's initiative allows for cash rewards for those municipalities and centres which are successful in bringing people back into employment. For the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO), it is important that the focus is now on the retention of people in employment.