Time for a More Active Labour Market Policy

Joint Press Conference of Caritas, WIFO and arbeit plus
"The persistently high level of unemployment remains economically and socially unacceptable." WIFO Director Christoph Badelt came to this conclusion at a press conference with Caritas President Michael Landau and arbeit plus Managing Director Judith Pühringer on the eleventh job mile of Caritas Vienna on 30 April 2019.

Although the situation on the labour market has eased in recent years, an economic downturn and a renewed rise in unemployment are already expected for next year. WIFO forecasts an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent. Landau, Pühringer and Badelt therefore demand: "The federal government should already prepare a more active labour market policy for more difficult times today and take budgetary precautionary measures for it."

For Caritas President Michael Landau one thing is certain: "Experience from our daily work makes us certain: the fight against unemployment must be the first and foremost goal to which the federal government is committed! And for this we need a policy on the side of the weakest and not one that increases people's need."

And Judith Pühringer is also convinced with regard to the coming years: "Today we are at a crossroads in Austrian labour market and social policy. Decisions have to be made: are we continuing along the path of cuts and sanctions and thus reinforcing the hopelessness and existential fears of job seekers? Or do we choose a path of sufficiently financed labour market policy that also disadvantaged people can follow and develop new perspectives on?

In view of the announced tax reform, WIFO, Caritas and arbeit plus demanded massive improvements for people with low incomes. Landau: "316,000 people can no longer make a living from their work. They are poor in spite of work and belong to the so-called working poor. Dismissed in bogus self-employment. Dependent on part-time jobs. Or no longer covered by collective agreements. I am convinced that in Austria not only stock exchange profits and assets may rise, but that this must also apply to people's earned income – especially when it comes to people who earn very little."

In view of the medium-term rise in unemployment, Landau, Badelt and Pühringer also called on Tuesday for the AMS to be strengthened. Landau: "The federal government has reduced the funds for the AMS from 2018 to 2019. From 2020, more funds should again be available for active labour market policy". And Badelt also speaks of necessary "budgetary precautionary measures". Badelt stressed the urgency of special labour market integrative offers for those groups that are particularly affected by unemployment. Above all, older people should be integrated into the labour market with jobs that match their specific skills.

Pühringer knows from more than 30 years of experience at arbeit plus: "People want to work, but not everyone can do it without support and under the conditions of the regular labour market". And Badelt: "Socio-economic companies and non-profit employment projects can make a sustainable contribution when it comes to bringing people back to a regular working life." In detail, Badelt also proposes an evaluation of such measures in order to be able to specifically expand particularly effective instruments. And particularly in view of the reorganisation of social assistance, it is important "to offer sufficient and comprehensive language courses" and to organise them in such a way that people can acquire the necessary language skills quickly and under reasonable living conditions, Landau added.