Blog Political Science and Public Administration

Xavier Ballart (UAB) Clara Riba (UPF) Jaume Blasco (IVALUA)


This study by IGOP for the Catalan government (now submitted for publication) is based on the analysis of a minimum income protection program in Catalonia, Spain from 2003 to 2005, although it aims to produce data in relation to research questions that are of general interest regarding employment activation policies and the effects of individual and institutional factors.


We first looked at whether minimum income beneficiaries who were determined by social workers to be ready to work and thence put into a “labour insertion itinerary” actually succeeded and left dependency behind. According to our analysis, these individuals were vulnerable to job instability, given the low quality of the jobs they could find, but they could achieve employment in a context of economic expansion. The analysis shows that the critical factors for public administrations managing unemployed people receiving minimum income support are: (a) the time spent in the program, and (b) the possibility of having a real working experience during their time in the program. Those who exited the program successfully did so within a period of approximately three years. 


Beneficiaries who spent more than three years in the program were at risk of never leaving it. Second, we looked at the characteristics and personal problems that acted as barriers to employment for the beneficiaries that continued to depend on social assistance in a time of economic expansion. The analysis confirmed prior research on personal obstacles to employment and indentified the following characteristics as the highest barriers: homelessness, social isolation, prostitution, having mental health limitations or a poor physical health condition. 


Although migrants in the Catalan region could not be considered “difficult” cases in our analysis, there were clear differences among them, those from northern African countries and Latin America being the ones who had the most difficulty exiting the program and finding jobs. The separation of beneficiaries in ten cluster groups was useful to take into account the variance between caseloads and to see that success criteria should be adjusted to the characteristics of each group. The analysis confirmed that some client profiles should be oriented towards a long term personal development itinerary and that the administrative units in charge of them should have incentives to work intensively on their personal problems. Third, we considered the hypothesis that administrative efficiency could be a critical factor and, therefore, we checked whether administrative units had a rate of success that was explained by the complexity or number of cases they managed. According to our analysis, the size of the caseload had an effect – although small - on the performance of administrative units. In practical terms, however, reducing the caseload of administrative units to dedicate more time to each individual case may not be the solution.


Finally, we reached the conclusion that it was not possible to state that job activation policies are not appropriate for “difficult” cases. The study shows that the Catalan schemes were not appropriate to facilitate the labour integration of specific categories of beneficiaries, but they could have been more efficient at implementation, particularly if they had had more resources or the ability to work at the local level with local governments and voluntary associations to place the beneficiaries in activities that enabled them to get working experience.


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