SER advisory report

Covid-19 Crisis Think Tank calls for extra attention for vulnerable groups in the labour market

The Covid-19 crisis affects many working people. But some groups are at greater risk of long-term unemployment and financial problems, for example young people just starting working life or who have just started, people with a migration background, or those with an occupational disability. Many of these were already disadvantaged on the labour market before the crisis broke out.

The Covid-19 Crisis Think Tank calls for these vulnerable groups not to be relegated to the back of the queue. The Knowledge Document Neem iedereen mee: Kwetsbare groepen op de arbeidsmarkt [Include Everyone: Vulnerable Groups in the Labour Market], published on 10 December, offers seven recommendations.

“The Covid-19 crisis affects us all. But for some people the consequences are more significant and longer lasting than for others. Let us not forget those who need extra support to find and stay in work, so that they too don’t lose heart.” Mariëtte Hamer, President of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER).

The Think Tank’s most important recommendation is to enable everyone to benefit, including those at risk of being left behind. The general policy is to enable as many people as possible to find work and to keep them in work. Specific attention is needed for vulnerable groups. These are extremely varied and the required approach therefore varies as well, comprising, for example, remote job coaching or extra language and digital skills training for asylum permit holders and the functionally illiterate. The second recommendation is to actively strive for an inclusive labour market. It remains important to highlight the value of diversity within companies. A more diverse company is demonstrably more successful in the long run.

Need for assistance as the starting point

The Think Tank recommends that the people who are affected should be directly involved; it is the experience of the target group and their need for assistance that must be the starting point. Online conversations can be set up for this purpose, or apps can be utilised. And one also needs to investigate what employers need so as to be able to help these vulnerable groups. That may be a one-off sum of money, for example, or facilities for remote working.

Face-to-face services and customisation

Reintegration into the labour market requires ongoing provision of face-to-face services, personal attention, and customisation for vulnerable groups. Education can form part of the specific approach. Finally, the Think Tank recommends that measures be geared to what the implementing agencies can actually achieve.

Progress achieved

But the Covid-19 Think Tank also writes that the situation isn’t a tale of woe for everyone, because there are also people in the relevant groups who are managing for themselves. Additional activities have been devised for these groups in recent years. For example, employers have made efforts to provide jobs for people with a disability. Helped by the buoyant economy, more and more people, including those distanced from the labour market, have found work. A shift is underway towards greater inclusion and diversity in the workplace. But this progress must not be allowed to come to a halt because of the Covid-19 crisis, which is why the Think Tank has produced this Knowledge Document.

The recommendations were drawn up by the Think Tank’s Target Groups working party. Those taking part are representatives of national employers’ and employees’ organisations, Iederin, UWV, VNG, Diversiteit in Bedrijf, the Onderwijsraad, CBS, SCP, and Crown-appointed members of the Council. The working party is chaired by Prof. Godfried Engbersen (WRR and EUR), with secretarial assistance provided by the Council.