Long-term unemployed to get preferential job treatment

Experts maintain that giving long-term unemployed jobs over better qualified candidates could have dire consequences

A number of Copenhagen deputy mayors contend that long-term unemployed should be given jobs ahead of others who may be more qualified.

Earlier this week, the national labour market regulator, Arbejdsmarkedsstyrelsen, reported that the government had surpassed its goal of creating 12,500 'akutjobs' for unemployment insurance benefit (dagpenge) recipients in danger of losing their benefits due to governmental reforms. However, a January study by weekly newsletter Ugebrevet A4 indicated that just one in five of those positions were filled by those for whom it was intended. In response, the employment minister, Mette Frederiksen (Socialdemokraterne), has urged councils to move the long-term unemployed to the front of the job queue. 

In Copenhagen, a majority of the City Council’s finance committee have voted to give the long-term unemployed priority when hiring. Socialdemokraterne (S), Socialistisk Folkeparti (SF) and Enhedslisten (EL) voted for the proposal, while Venstre (V) and Konservative (K) voted against, and Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and Radikale (R) abstained.  

“It is necessary to strongly emphasise to employers that akutjobs are for the people who are in danger of losing their dagpenge,” Mikkel Warming (EL), the deputy mayor for social affairs, told Politiken newspaper.

Warming is backed up by Anne Vang (S), the deputy mayor for children, who proposed taking things a step further by listing all new job vacancies under her administration as akutjobs.

Anna Mee Allerslev (R), the employment and integration mayor, however, countered that the council should not embrace preferential treatment and accused her colleagues of going too far.

“You end up diverging from the fundamental principle of employing the best-qualified person for the job,” Allerslev told Politiken. “We are worried about the direction that the akutjob scheme is taking in Copenhagen and for the service our residents will experience if it becomes a reality.”

Flemming Ibsen, a labour-market researcher from Aalborg University, agreed that giving preferential treatment to the long-term unemployed could end up having undesired consequences.

“Employing people who are less qualified will result in reduced public service and productivity,” Ibsen told Information newspaper. “The losers will also be the other unemployed individuals who will see themselves overtaken by less-qualified applicants.”

The government’s emergency job creation plan (akutpakke) was introduced in October in an attempt to create jobs for the thousands of people who would be unable to collect unemployment insurance benefits after the end of 2012, when a new two-year limit for receiving benefits kicked in.