Project RationaleDisability emerges from social, economic, cultural and medical processes within society. It is a dynamic interaction between health condition, personal factors e.g. age or gender and the environment e.g. laws, access to supports or attitudes, that impacts on capacity, activity levels and restricts participation in society, economic activity and inclusion (WHO, 2001).
The repercussions of dependency and unemployment, as a result of disability for EU fiscal and social policy, will place pressure on the European Social Model in the longer term, not least due to a rise in age-related acquired disabilities and health problems. More effective policies and strategies are required, in order to assist people with disabilities to cross the threshold from economic inactivity to productive employment, which target both employers and individuals. Such measures must impact directly on the decision of a person with a disability to seek, and keep a job and on individual employers to recruit and retain disabled employees.
Utilising recent research and developments across a range of disciplines, Opti-Work aims to add value to EU and national employment policy and national systems to promote the integration of people with disabilities into the labour market. It will develop a conceptual framework, consisting of a set of culturally relevant analytical tools. These tools will be capable of throwing light upon the 'threshold' decisions of job seekers with disabilities and potential employers and the economic and social cost/benefits of crossing the threshold to employment for the State, employer and person with a disability. This will permit systems and initiatives to be benchmarked across jurisdictions in these terms. The perspectives of key stakeholders, active job seekers with disabilities and potential employers, and passive employers and inactive people with disabilities, will underpin the development process of this coordination action. System characteristics, which lower the threshold to employment for people with disabilities and minimise the costs of disability and employment equity measures for the State, the jobseeker and the employer, will be highlighted and future strategies will be proposed. An online knowledge management resource centre will be produced, in order to facilitate community building between the EU and national stakeholders.
The overall aim of this study is to develop a system tool and socio-economic model to allow for transnational comparisons of the extent to which system measures and sectoral initiatives raise or lower the threshold to the labour market for people with disabilities from the employer and the job seekerâ€™s perspective and to identify effective mediating intervening mechanisms to assist both parties in overcoming barriers and challenges to recruitment.
The system tool and socio-economic model are also capable of characterising the economic impact of raised employment levels for people with disabilities at three levels:
The level of the State
When applied on the national level, the tool will examine the economic impact of current system measures and sectoral initiatives from the perspective of current expenditure and income generation strategies, deferred costs to the system of not crossing the recruitment threshold and the discounted benefits of placement of disabled job seekers.
The cost benefit of recruiting employees with disability into the workforce from the perspective of the enterprise
When applied on the level of the enterprise, the tool will analyse the costs and benefits of recruiting a person with a disability from an employer perspective including recruitment costs, the cost of adaptations and modifications to the work environment or work conditions, training costs, productivity costs and benefits in terms of improved morale, workforce diversity, corporate social responsibility and quality.
The extent to which a job seeker with a disability is â€˜better offâ€™ as a result of obtaining an employment position
When applied on the level of the individual, the tool will analyse the potential financial and social costs and benefits to the individual in crossing the recruitment threshold can be described in terms of reduced reliance on benefits and increased independence in terms of earned income.
National Contact Centres
In fifteen countries, there will be National Contact Centres to work on a national level on the deliverables of the Opti-Work Project.
The National Contact Centres (NCCs) are rehabilitation service providers to people with disabilities and other disadvantages. These centres have a long history in their countries of improving the labour participation of people with disabilities, and can be seen as key players in promoting the integration of the disabled into the workforce. They have direct access to people with disabilities and direct access to employers employing these peoplen and have close relations with national stakeholders in the field of labour participation of people with disabilities, e.g. social policy makers, insurance companies, employers organisations, advocacy groups and workers compensation boards. Their leading position on the national scene and extensive experience in international co-operation are essential added-value to such project.
The NCCs are involved in the piloting, implementation and dissemination activities of the project. The EPR will select persons in each member centre to carry out the necessary work, based on a list of competencies made by the PCC. See also: The European Platform for Rehabilitation
A key challenge for the Opti-Work project arises not so much from a lack of information with regard to the integration of people with disabilities into the labour market but rather the proliferation of national and international reports and research projects highlighting issues and facts in relation to the topic. The important contribution of the Opti-Work project is to bring together what is known about disability and employment within a common conceptual framework that can bring together current knowledge, information and data in a format that will allow cross-national comparisons and contribute to innovation and learning within the system.
Initially, it will be important to know what laws, regulations and services exist in each participating country that have an influence on the labour market position of people with disabilities. The research group (RG) will develop a Framework Analysis Tool that can be used in each participating country to gather this information. This preliminary version of the joint instrument will be piloted in a limited number of countries. After piloting, the amended Framework Analysis Tool can be applied in all participating countries via the National Contact Centres (NCCâ€™s). The NCCâ€™s will produce National System Profiles and recommendations for final adjustments to the tool. Based on these recommendations, the Final Framework Analysis Tool will be developed.
National Stats & Data
Secondly, it is important to describe, at the same macro level, the costs and benefits of labour participation of people with disabilities. Therefore the research group (RG) will develop a generic Economic Impact Model (EIM) that can be used in each participating country. The tool will be developed on the basis of national level data on the costs of disability that will be collected during the system panorama. Once again the RG will develop the initial version of this joint instrument and pilot it in a limited number of countries. After piloting, the amended Economic Impact Model can be applied in all participating countries via the National Contact Centres (NCCâ€™s). The NCCâ€™s will produce recommendations for adjustments to the model. Based on these recommendations, the Economic Impact Model, based on Macro Costs & Benefits will be developed.
Final Economic Impact Model
The intention of the Opti-Work project is to include within the Economic Impact Model not only outputs available at State or macro level in terms of impact indicators and data but also to incorporate elements within the model to represent perceived employer costs and benefits and relevant elements of the job seeker perspective. Once all necessary information from the other work packages is available, the Final Economic Impact Model will be developed. By running the model over a long time period, it is also possible to identify the time needed before the model achieves a specific rate of employment or specific level of economic benefit. This may be particularly useful for policy makers when making mid to long term planning decisions. Such models can also be easily varied in order to tailor models to specific circumstances that might apply in different countries and settings, or to examine difference across different types or severity of disability.
Employer Thresholds and Employer Costs& Benefits
System characteristics, e.g. legal measures, incentives and mediating mechanisms (such as services, supports and subsidies) have an impact on an employer when it concerns recruitment and retention. Thus, key perspectives for the development of each analytic tool within the methodology are the â€˜recruitment and retention thresholdsâ€™ for employers in each participating Member State. The research group (RG) will develop an Employer Threshold Tool (ETT) as well as a Cost Benefit Model (CBM) capable of being used in each participating country. Input for the development of these tools will come partly from the national system profiles. The RG will pilot the tools in a limited number of countries. After piloting, the amended Employers Threshold Tool and the amended Cost Benefit Model can be applied in all participating countries via the National Contact Centres (NCCâ€™s). The NCCâ€™s will produce recommendations for final adjustments to the models.
Based on these recommendations, the Final Employer Threshold Tool and the Final Cost Benefit Model will be developed. These deliverables will provide input for the continuing development of the Economic Impact Model. Thus, the information provided by the NCCâ€™s at this stage will lead to an Economic Impact Model incorporating Employer Costs & Benefits.
Jobseeker Thresholds and Better Off Analysis
Other key perspectives contributing to the development of each analytic tool within our methodology are the active job seeking and keeping â€˜thresholdsâ€™ for people with disabilities in each participating Member State. The research group (RG) will develop a Jobseeker Threshold Tool (JTT) as well as a Better Off Analysis Tool (BOA) capable of being used in each participating country. Input for the development of these tools will come partly from the national system profiles and partly from the employers' information. The RG will develop an initial version of these joint instruments that will be piloted in a limited number of countries. After piloting, the amended Jobseeker Threshold Tool and the amended Better Off Analysis will be applied in all participating countries via the National Contact Centres (NCCâ€™s). The NCCâ€™s will produce recommendations for final adjustments to the models.
Based on these recommendations, the Final Jobseeker Threshold Tool and the Final Better Off Analysis will be developed. These deliverables give input for the continuing development of the Economic Impact Model. The information provided by the NCCâ€™s at this stage will result in an Economic Impact Model, incorporating Costs & Benefits perspectives of people with disabilities.
Crossing the Threshold to Employment
The final framework incorporating national system, employer threshold and job seeker threshold profiles, as well as cross national comparisons and the final tools will form a basis for bringing together key EU and national policy makers and stakeholders in a policy forum. In the first place, the RG will synthesise the main findings of the previous work of the project and produce a set of draft recommendations on the basis of evidence regarding best practice in the area of employment promotion and as well as on the basis of the major barriers identified in relation to employment promotion. At this point, a Policy Forum involving NCC representatives, selected members of the NIGs and representatives of the EU Commission, spanning the public health, employment, equality and social protection sectors will be held. Contributors will participate in plenary sessions and workshop activities with a view to amending the initial draft recommendations. The RG will produce a final document consisting of innovative strategies, methods and policy recommendations.
Under the 6th Framework Research Programme â€œResearch for policy support Integration of people with disabilities into the labour marketâ€, Opti-Work will provide European and national policy makers and opinion formers with:
- A trans-national comparison of factors that enhance or inhibit the integration of people with disabilities into the labour market, and the recruitment of jobseekers with disabilities into employment, that highlights national differences and common shared system characteristics.
- An estimate of the current and medium term economic impact and effectiveness of existing national models, support structures and services for people with disabilities and disability employment integration measures.
- An insight into the differing impacts, i.e. the benefits and costs, of recruitment and retention of workers with disabilities from an employer perspective, in economic/financial, organisational and marketing terms, and in terms of corporate culture and identity, in each participating Member State.
- An estimate of the economic and social impact of absence from the workplace, and crossing the threshold into employment, on a jobseeker with a disability in each participating Member State.
- A set of principles and approaches, derived from best international practice, taking account of equity considerations, to form the basis for more cost efficient and effective policy making, service development and incentive design aimed at reducing the barriers and challenges facing jobseekers with disabilities and potential employers, at European and national and regional levels.
- A conceptual framework and set of analytic tools that can be used for the on-going monitoring and adaptation of future policies, strategies and methods at EU and national level.
- An online knowledge management and resource centre to facilitate community building between stakeholders (i.e. policy makers, employers and people with disabilities), to disseminate good practice, raise awareness, provide information and training to targeted users and promote dialogue throughout the project and beyond.
This enables us to:
- identify good practice based on cross-jurisdictional comparisons
- analyse the effectiveness of legislation, policies, strategies etc.
- estimate the economic and social costs and benefits of different approaches to increasing employment rates
- adapt existing policies in such a way that they stimulate rather than restrict high-quality and durable labour participation
- create innovative measures and new policies