3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market
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Youth employment is supported through a range of services and instruments provided for in the Act of 20 April 2004 on the promotion of employment and labour market institutions. Many services and instruments addressed to young people are implemented through public labour market institutions i.e. Employment Offices and Voluntary Labour Corps Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy (OHP). It is worth stressing that during the first decades of market economy the youth unemployment rate was very high and that the services and instruments supporting young people were available also for young adults (under 30 years old). After 2015, total and youth unemployment in Poland started to fall. However, young people especially in the under-25 group still face difficulties in entering the labour market and maintaining stable employment.
In Employment Offices, those registered as an unemployed may avail of the following services or support instruments:
job seeking and recruitment, job placement, vocational guidance;
intervention works, public works, socially useful works, reimbursed costs of travel and accommodation, reimbursed costs of taking care of child under 7 or a dependent;
improving qualifications: traineeships, training sessions, tripartite training agreements, apprenticeships for adults, scholarship for continuing education, co-founding post-university courses, founding the costs of exams and licences, training loans;
co-founding the business activity start, loan for the business activity start, co-founding the business activity start based on the rules stipulated for social cooperatives.
employment voucher, occupancy (housing) voucher, traineeship (internship) voucher, training voucher (these forms only for an unemployed under 30 years old);
refund of social security contributions for unemployed people under 30 years of age who take up a job for the first time (valid for 12 months, after 12 months the employer must employ the person for another 6 months).
In 2019, 137.9 thousand people under 30 years of age benefited from active labour market programmes, including 77.9 thousand under 25 years of age, and they accounted for 47.9% and 27.1% of the activated unemployed respectively (287.7 thousand people). Every second activated unemployed person was less than 30 years old. The largest number of the unemployed under 30 started an internship - 60.7 thousand people, subsidised work - 58.6 thousand people and training - 17.1 thousand people. From the new forms of activation introduced in 2014 (e.g.: training voucher, internship voucher, employment voucher, or voucher for getting a job) benefited 14.6 thousand people under 30 years of age in 2019 (i.e. 87.9% of the total number of persons benefiting from these forms), including 7.2 thousand up to the age of 25 (43.3%) (43.3%). In total, in the years 2014-2019 within the framework of the above mentioned vouchers, approximately 105 000 young people up to 30 years of age were activated.
The improvement of the labour market situation of young people is also largely due to the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Initiative. Implementation of the Youth Guarantee Initiative was launched in Poland in 2014. Among the addressees of the Youth Guarantee Initiative (Zaktualizowany Plan Realizacji Gwarancji dla Młodzieży) within Poland, four subgroups have been identified. The offer of the Initiative has been adjusted according to the subgroups needs:
Persons aged 15 to 17 who are leaving school early – persons who neglect the schooling obligation (under 16 years old) or the educational obligation (under 18 years old).
Persons aged 18 to 29 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) – including those who require special support, i.e. those who are separated from the labour market, from disadvantaged backgrounds, and from rural areas.
Persons aged 18 to 29 registered as unemployed – including registered students of extramural and evening study programmes.
Unemployed youth and job seeking graduates of schools and higher education institutions within 48 months from the date of graduation or receiving vocational qualification, aged 18 to 29 – in terms of support of young entrepreneurship.
Since the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Initiative in 2014-2019, more than 4.3 million young people in district labour offices have been covered by the programme and 2.7 million have completed participation in the programme within 4 months of registration due to employment, training, vocational preparation and internship.
In 2014, a loan programme for young people provided by the National Development Bank (Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego - BGK) was launched. Currently, it is a government programme titled "First Business - Support at Start". The Programme was initiated by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, upon whose order BGK manages the Programme throughout its entire period of operation. Funds for the programme come from the Labour Fund (cf. also point 3.9).
In addition to the standard activities of Employment Offices and BGK, OHP projects “Action Activation – YEI and ESF” and “Unlock Your Potential – YEI and ESF” are implemented, which include individual psychological support; group active job search workshops; vocational courses; vocational qualification courses; language courses; ECDL courses; driving courses; entrepreneurship courses; job placement and mediation in the organisation of internships; and internships with employers. The aim of the projects is to activate people aged 18- 24 from NEET group („not in employment, education or training"). In 2017, the implementation of projects “From Training to Employment – YEI and ESF” began for 3,700 professionally inactive persons from the NEET group. In 2019, the projects were implemented in 140 organisational units of OHP across the country, 1600 people were planned to be offered the support.
Additional actions have been taken within the framework of central competitions organised under the programme “Young People on the Labour Market” (PO WER Knowledge Education Development Operational Programme). The competitions, announced by the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy under the Youth Guarantee Initiative, concern projects supporting individual and comprehensive professional and educational activation of young people (unemployed, professionally inactive and jobseekers, especially those not registered at any Employment Office). The aim is to increase the employability of young people under the age of 29 who remain unemployed, especially those who are not in education or training (NEET youth). It is estimated that approximately 18 thousand people aged 15 to 29 will receive support within the framework of those central competitions (in 2016-2021).
The participants of the projects financed under the competition PO WER from the European Social fund are persons from the NEET group up to 30 years of age, in particular:
- youth leaving foster care
- young mothers leaving foster care
- mothers staying in single mothers' homes,
- youth and graduates from youth educational centres and sociotherapy centres, special educational and school-educational centres,
- young people leaving penal institutions or remand centres.
New edition of the Youth Guarantee Initiative. The Ministry of Family and Social Policy is working on a new edition of the Youth Guarantee Initiative (GdM). The new EU Council Recommendation of October 2020 on Strengthening the Youth Guarantee places much more emphasis on the preparation of digital competences of participants in activation activities under the programme (Council Recommendation of 30 October 2020 on A Bridge to Jobs - Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee and replacing the Council Recommendation of 22 April 2013 on establishing a Youth Guarantee 2020/C 372/01). Therefore, the draft update assumes that any candidate interested in participating will be able to undergo a validation of their existing competences at the beginning and, if deficiencies are identified, will have the opportunity to correct them by participating in a training course to improve digital competences. The financial source will be the European Social Fund (ESF), under the next financial perspective 2021-2027.
The new edition of Guarantees for Youth (2022) is addressed to young people in four subgroups:
15-17 year olds dropping out of school or neglecting compulsory schooling/education;
persons aged 18-29:
a. registered as unemployed;
b. who are outside of employment, education and training (NEET);
c. who are unemployed and job-seeking school and university graduates;
those who have left foster care;
women under 30 years of age raising children.
The Minister in charge of labour (Minister Rodziny i Polityki Społecznej) is the National Coordinator of the Youth Guarantee, while the Minister in charge of regional development (Minister Funduszy i Polityki Regionalnej) provides support in financial and organizational aspects. The key institutions implementing activities to support young people in entering the labour market are:
District and provincial labour offices - labour offices are the primary institutions for supporting the unemployed in returning to the labour market throughout the country. Labor offices are local government units, subordinate to the provincial marshal (provincial labour offices - WUP) or the district starost (district labour offices - PUP)
Voluntary Labor Corps (OHP) - is a state budgetary unit supervised by the minister responsible for labour. The main purpose of OHP's activities is to create conditions for the proper social and professional development of young people - with particular emphasis on activities addressed to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, requiring assistance from state institutions.
Bank of National Economy (BGK) - is a state financial institution specializing in servicing the public finance sector. BGK's mission is the efficient and cost-effective implementation of activities commissioned by the State, supplemented by the development of its own activities for selected market segments.
Implementation of the Youth Guarantee in Poland in 2021-2027 will be carried out within the framework of 16 regional programs, developed for each province depending on the diagnosed needs.
ECAM – OHP have launched the Electronic Youth Activation Centre (Elektroniczne Centrum Aktywizacji Młodzieży -ECAM). It is a service platform for young jobseekers, those with learning difficulties or having problems with functioning in their environment. Through the ICT system, young people can receive specific information about the location of the nearest OHP unit, which can provide them with education or employment assistance. ECAM was created as part of the project “OHP as a Provider of Labour Market Services” thanks to European Union funds from the European Social Fund.
State Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (Państwowy Fundusz Rehabilitacji Osób Niepełnosprawnych, PFRON) PFRON subsidises services and instruments addressed to people with disabilities offered by Employment Offices. Support can be provided to people with disabilities registered as unemployed and those who do not have an unemployed status but who are looking for work.
In 2017, PFRON launched three pilot programmes aimed at increasing the employment of people with disabilities in the open labour market (including young people). Each programme is expected to provide employment to at least 1,000 people.
The Graduate programme, addressed to graduates and students in their final year at higher education institutions.
The Stable Employment programme in administration and public services.
The “Work-Integration” programme, addressed to enterprises and non-governmental organisations.
In 2022 PFRON has launched a new program "Independence-Activity-Mobility" Housing for Graduates (2022). This is a subsidy for renting an apartment or house for the period of job search and starting employment for a period of 36 months. It applies to adult graduates who have completed their education within the last 3 years.
Social economy and solidarity. Young people in a difficult life situation and at risk of social exclusion may find support in various social economy entities. Currently, there are about 100 000 social economy entities in Poland. These are social enterprises (e.g. social cooperatives); reintegration units, i.e. units whose main objective is the social and professional reintegration of persons at risk of social exclusion (e.g. Vocational Activity Establishments, Occupational Therapy Workshops or Social Integration Centres); associations, foundations and entities in the economic sphere - non-profit companies and cooperatives whose objective is the employment of, for example, the disabled and the blind.
In Poland, measures have been taken to increase the security of employees on the labour market, which involved counteracting the abuse of civil law contracts by employers, temporary work, and low wages. These changes relate significantly to the situation of young people in the labour market, as they are the most affected by these practices. Other activities increasing the safety of young employees on the labor market are: zero PIT (2019) for young people and programs supporting work-life balance.
Counteracting the abuse of civil law contracts and introducing a minimum hourly rate
In order to prevent the abuse of civil law contracts in employment and to protect the lowest paid workers, the Act of 22 July 2016 amending the Minimum Wage Act and certain other acts (Journal of Laws (Dz.U.), No. 1265, as amended) introduced into the legal framework a guaranteed minimum wage for specific civil law contracts (previously, it applied to only contracts of employment). From 1 January 2017, a minimum hourly rate of PLN 13 is applicable to each hour of commissioned work or services provided (including via self-employment). In subsequent years, the rate will be adjusted to a level corresponding to the increase in the minimum wage for employees. From 2020, the minimum wage will increase to PLN 2,600 gross, while the minimum hourly rate to PLN 17 gross. From January 2022, the minimum wage increased to PLN 3 010, the hourly rate to PLN 19.70. As of January 2023, the lowest wage will rise to 3,490 PLN gross, while the minimum hourly rate will be 22.80 PLN gross and another increase is planned for mid-year, due to high inflation.
The Act also introduces amendments to the Act of 13 April 2007 on the State Labour Inspectorate (Państwowa Inspekcja Pracy - PIP). The tasks of PIP have been extended to include inspection of whether salaries are paid in amounts consistent with the minimum hourly rate. As a result of the findings of such inspections, PIP inspectors will be able to send a letter (including post-inspection conclusions and legal basis) or give oral instructions to pay a salary in the amount consistent with the minimum hourly rate.
Changes in the employment of temporary workers
In 2017, the Act on Temporary Workers and various other laws were amended. The changes are to enter into force on 1 January 2018.
The maximum duration of temporary work has been reduced. A temporary employment agency will be able to delegate a temporary worker to work for a single employer for a period not exceeding 18 months in total in any period of 36 consecutive months. At the same time, the employer will be able to avail of the work of the same temporary worker for a period not exceeding 18 months in total in any period of 36 consecutive months. The law also envisages strengthening the court measures available to temporary workers. They will be able, like other employees, to bring action before a labour court of their choice.
New list of work forbidden for minors (2016). The amendment adjusts Polish regulations to EU regulations. Directive 2014/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 has amended Council Directive 94/33/EC on the protection of young people at work.
ZERO PIT - tax exemption for young people up to 26 (2019)
From August 1, 2019, there is a tax exemption for salaries of persons up to 26. The relief (or more precisely, tax exemption) will cover revenues from the service relationship, employment relationship, outwork, cooperative employment relationship and contracts, received by the taxpayer up to the amount PLN 85 528 in a tax year.
Projects concerning the reconciliation of working and private life are carried out within the framework of competitions announced by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.
In 2017, a practical web-based platform which provides comprehensive information on the mechanisms for reconciling working and private life was developed. It shows employers step by step how to introduce optimal solutions in this respect in their workplace. This platform was developed under the project “Family and Work – It Pays Off!” co-financed by the European Commission.
2017 (Q4) will see the announcement of the competition entitled “Implementation of Tools to Support the Fight Against Discrimination in the Workplace and Access to Employment in Small Enterprises” under Measure 2.1 Equal opportunities for men and women in all areas, including access to employment, career development, and the reconciliation of working and private life (Knowledge Education Development Operational Programme).
The Ministry of Family and Social Policy (formerly the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy) initiates and is responsible for a number of measures aimed at helping to provide financial support and institutional care for a small child. Various forms of support for families with children are aimed at preventing family poverty as well as helping parents to combine working life with childcare.
A scheme supporting the development of childcare institutions for children under the age of 3 has been carried out by the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy since 2011 (Maluch Plus). It envisages co-financing from the state budget – through an open tender – of initiatives for creating new or keeping the existing available places by various entities (public and non-public) in various forms of childcare institutions (crèche, children’s club and daycare provider).
Family500+ is a state social policy programme implemented in Poland since 1 April 2016 to help families raise their children through monthly child-rearing benefits for each child up to 18 years of age in the amount of PLN 500, regardless of income (the rate is increased in the case of a child with disabilities to PLN 800).
Family Care Capital is a new benefit for parents of children aged between 12 and 36 months - a total of PLN 12,000 for the second and each subsequent child (the solution came into force on 1 January 2022).
In the first quarter of 2022 the Ministry of Family and Social Policy submitted for public consultation a draft of amendments to the Labour Code related to the implementation of the EU directive called the work-life balance directive, abbreviated WLB. (Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU). The Directive must be implemented by Poland by 2 August 2022. Parliamentary work is currently underway to implement the directive in the Labor Code.
The aim of the work-life balance directive is to encourage women and men to equally share caring responsibilities. Parents will be able to count on facilitations in reconciling professional and family life. Changes to the Labour Code will mean, among other things, longer parental leave for parents, a new care leave and flexible working arrangements for parents.
The right to parental leave would be an individual right for each parent. It would no longer be conditional on the child's mother taking maternity leave. Parental leave will also be longer. Today it is 32 weeks in the case of giving birth to one child and 34 weeks in the case of a multiple pregnancy. After the changes, it will be 41 and 43 weeks respectively. Each parent will also be guaranteed 9 weeks' leave, which will not be transferable to the other parent. The change also means an increase in maternity pay for the entire period of parental leave.
A new care leave will also enter the legal order. This is five days per calendar year of unpaid leave granted at the request of an employee who needs to provide personal care to a child, but also to another family member (elderly parents or spouse) requiring significant care or significant support for serious medical reasons.
The Labour Code will also include exemption from work due to force majeure, which is granted in urgent family matters caused by illness or accident, if the employee's immediate presence is necessary.
The changes also provide for more flexible working arrangements for, among others, parents of children under 8 years of age. The employer will have to inform the employee in writing about the reasons for refusing, for example, to grant remote work or consent to individual working time. Today there is no such obligation. After the change of regulations - employers will not be able to commission - without the consent of the employee - night work, business trips or overtime work to employees taking care of a child up to 8 years old. Currently, this limit is 4 years of the child's life.
The youth employment promotion policy implemented by Public employment services is financed, among other sources, from the Labour Fund (a state-owned special purpose fund created from employer contributions) and from European funds, and in the case of people with disabilities, also from PFRON funds.
Public employment services may outsource some of their services to private and non-governmental organisations.
Implementation of the Youth Guarantee Initiative is financed from public funds and European funds., e.g. in the years 2017-2018 the effect on the public finance sector will total approximately PLN 2.7 billion annually (including about PLN 1.1 billion of European funds; estimated data). The new edition of the Youth Guarantee Program will be implemented both with national funds together with the funds from the EU budget under the ESF and ESF+.
Projects related to the reconciliation of working and private life carried out through competitions are financed from the state budget and European funds.
Additional support for people with disabilities (in addition to funds collected by PFRON) is provided by the Solidarity Fund. There is a state special purpose fund established by the Law on the Solidarity Fund of October 23, 2018. (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 1787, as amended). The purpose of the Fund is, among other things, to provide social, vocational, health and financial support to persons with disabilities, social and vocational reintegration initiatives undertaken by social economy entities, activities to ensure accessibility for people with special needs.
Statistics on youth participation in active labour market policies (ALMP), including the cost-effectiveness and employment effectiveness of the different forms of activation, are collected by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy and are publicly available.
The results of empirical research indicate, however, that young people are dissatisfied with the quality of services offered; especially young people who have difficulty entering and remaining in the labour market, such as the disabled. NEET group is another group where activation programmes are not effective enough.
Employment support projects funded by European funds in previous financial perspectives often did not have long-term goals, and those funds were not used effectively.
The diagnosed barriers in the use of EU funds in Poland include (Strategy for Responsible Development until 2020 (with a forecast up to 2030)):
Insufficient developmental effect of the projects selected for co-financing
Low effectiveness of the applied forms of support
Poor effects of support in the area of innovation
Insufficient potential of the implementing institutions and the beneficiaries to plan and implement strategic development projects affecting socio-economic growth and employment
Ineffective mechanisms for co-ordination of the various European funding measures
The main task in the current financial perspective for 2014-2020 is to use EU funds to achieve permanent developmental effects in the country.