Reintegration of older unemployed people

Report on the audit of budget chapter XV

More than 40% of the long-term unemployed in the Netherlands are older than 50. It is particularly difficult for them to get back to work again if they lose their jobs. The government has therefore introduced policy specifically for the reintegration of older unemployed people. We asked how much the policy cost and what it achieved.

Conclusions

We looked at eight policy instruments introduced by the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) to help unemployed people older than 50 get back to work again. The instruments to reintegrate older unemployed people include a reduction in the insurance contributions paid by employers and temporary employment agencies, trial jobs, network training courses and schooling vouchers. The Minister does not seem to know how much these policy instruments cost or how many older unemployed people they reach. It is also not known how many older unemployed people find a job again thanks to the reintegration policy. These conclusions are based on the following audit findings.

Little insight into number of older unemployed reached and financial value

The Minister of SZW does not know how many older unemployed people are reached by four of the eight policy instruments we audited. The four incentive measures were:

  • mobility bonus/contribution reduction: employer insurance contributions paid for older unemployed people are reduced by up to €7,000 per annum for a maximum of three years;
  • no-risk unemployment benefit policy: employers receive compensation if they have to continue making salary payments if an older unemployed person is sick for more than 13 weeks;
  • trial job scheme: employers can offer the unemployed (including older people) trial jobs for two months to see if they come up to expectations;
  • Open to 50+ campaign: a multimedia campaign to make employers aware of the qualities of older unemployed people.

Regarding the first two of these policy instruments, the Minister does not know how much money is intended for the specific target group of older unemployed people. This is remarkable given the usefulness and necessity of such basic information to support the reintegration policy.

Policy effectiveness largely unknown

Little is known about the effectiveness of the policy instruments the Minister has introduced to help older unemployed people get back to work. How many older people find a job as a result of a policy instrument is known for just one of the eight instruments we audited – the trial job scheme. This information is not available for the other instruments. In theory, though, the mobility bonus/contribution reduction scheme, which accounts for most of the budget set aside for the eight instruments we audited, should also increase the likelihood of older unemployed people getting back to work again.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Minister of SZW:

  • record how the number of older unemployed people reached by each policy instrument, and at what cost, will be measured, so that systematic information is available on each instrument;
  • publish this core data as open data wherever possible in order to strengthen public accountability;
  • record how the effectiveness of each policy instrument will be measured, making use wherever possible of information that is already available;
  • make the necessary changes in the systems used to record the mobility bonus/contribution reductions so that the number of users can be followed and effectiveness can be measured.

Response of the Minister of SZW

The Minister of SZW will study ways to measure the impact of the action plan to help long-term older unemployed people get back to work again. Regarding the publication of open data, the Minister referred to the action being taken by the government as part of its National Open Data Agenda. Finally, the Minister noted that he was holding talks with the Tax and Customs Administration and the Employee Insurance Agency to determine whether and how insight into the cost of the mobility bonus for older unemployed people and the number of participanats could be improved.

In our afterword, we noted that the Minister wanted an insight into the cost and use of the mobility bonus/contribution reduction scheme but it was not clear whether he wanted the same insight into the other policy instruments. We also wrote that ‘collecting information’ was not an end in itself but a means to evaluate whether policy was working effectively and efficiently. It would be good if the Minister included such an evaluation in his forthcoming action plan for older unemployed people.

See also