The evaluation of active labour market measures for the long-term unemployed

Meager N, Evans C | Employment and Training Papers 16 | International Labour Organization | Nov 1997

Part of the work programme of the Employment and Labour Market Policies Branch concerned the effectiveness of active labour market programmes in helping the unemployed find or return to work.

Many such measures were in existence in the late 1990s, some provided training, others placements on public works schemes or job subsidies. Some programmes were in effect intensified efforts to encourage job search by special placement efforts made by the public employment service. It was a matter of considerable concern to policy makers that all such programmes should be properly evaluated in order to assess their relative contribution to employing or reemploying the unemployed.

This paper gives a summary overview of both the results of about 100 evaluation studies from OECD member countries and the main evaluation methods used and their advantages and drawbacks. In particular the advantages of 'target oriented' rather than 'programme oriented' evaluation research for policy makers are shown.

However, this stands in contrast to the scarcity of such evaluations. The paper concentrates on a particular target group, the long-term unemployed. As both youth and the long-term unemployed were increasingly the main targets of active labour market measures, the paper contributed to understanding more general problems of labour market policy.

One result of the study was that schemes which provided experience close to working life (eg usually schemes run by or involving enterprises) typically had the best employment effects. Contrary to a widespread belief the least costly schemes, such as special placement efforts, were also the most effective. The study argued for more costly training schemes which could be still more effective.

Finally, the author argued for considering distributional and social objectives in evaluating these programmes rather than a sole focus on generating extra income and employment.