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Civil society an important actor for the long-term unemployed

Published: 18 July 2022

There is a knowledge gap regarding the role of civil society in integrating people who are far from the labour market according to a new research report.
- Civil society organisations can help people in the target group through their good insight into their life situation, says Malin Lindberg, professor of gender and technology and one of the researchers behind the report.

Many people  in Sweden are far from the labour market. This can be due to various unfavorable factors, such as lack of language skills, various forms of disabilities, health problems and social problems. Being long-term unemployed is in itself a social problem that can negatively affect the individual's opportunities to integrate into society and the entire economy of the society. Many civil society organiaations have a tradition of working with vulnerable groups and can therefore contribute to integrating these groups into the labour market.

- Our conclusions are based on a broad study of all kinds of organiaations in civil society, from sports associations, study associations and religious communities to folk high schools and social enterprises. As far as we know, something similar has never been done in Sweden before, says Malin Lindberg.

A total of 75 organizations analyzed

The research group has analyzed websites and other information material from a total of 75 different organizations. Who do the organizations turn to, what are their perspectives on the labor market and how do they work with inclusion in working life? are examples of questions that have been asked of the material. The selection is based on the organizations' ambitions for innovation and inclusion.

Of the 75 organizations, the researchers have selected 9 organizations whose representatives have been interviewed about their activities and what scope there is for innovation for labour market policy initiatives aimed at people who are far from the labour market, given that the area is relatively tightly regulated in Sweden.

- Civil society organizations work according to a slightly different logic than what usually characterizes labour market policy initiatives. For example, they can offer a wide range of activities, with everything from internships and work training to volunteer work and leisure activities.

A step towards in-depth understanding

The researchers state that there is no real overview of how civil society works with labour market issues, but that the report can be a first step for an in-depth understanding and a basis for employment services, municipalities and other public actors when they hire external providers of work-inclusive initiatives.

- Today, civil society organizations make up only two to three percent of the total procurement of welfare services in Sweden. Recently, new forms of collaboration have been developed, such as idea-driven public partnership (IOP) ( idéburet offentligt partnerskap), which is a collaboration form between procurement and grants. We believe that these forms of cooperation can be a good complement in the long run.

Malin Lindberg and her colleagues believe that civil society can contribute in a way that other actors in the labour market cannot. Already by being active in an association, the individual has taken a step closer to work and employment.

No quickfix

- Including the vulnerable in the labour market is not a quick fix. In many cases, civil society can offer a chain of work initiatives that take a person closer to the labour market. Several organizations take a whole person's life situation into account. It can be about community, getting everyday routines and language training.

The report is produced in a Forte-funded research project carried out in 2019-2022 in collaboration between Luleå University of Technology, Uppsala University, Marie Cederschiöld University, the Church of Sweden's unit for research and analysis, and Ideell Arena.