Engaging the long term unemployed by greening public spaces and through training

Zagreb, Croatia

Long term unemployed people work in the city’s public green spaces in exchange for education and training in fields which are in high demand in the local economy.

This education and training project is designed to activate unemployed people by having them work on the preservation and clean up of green spaces. In return they are entitled to attend education and training courses, which helps increase their competitiveness on the labour market and their chances of finding a job.

Since 2005 about 300 unemployed people have participated annually in the project. Around 30% of the project participants subsequently found employment, which has had a positive effect on poverty reduction and has decreased pressure on the social budget and social services. 

Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/353-green-web_final.pdf


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City information
City
Zagreb

Size and population development
779,145 (source: City og Zagreb, data for 2001)

Population composition
90% Croats; other ethnic minorities Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks, etc.

Main functions
Capital and largest city of Croatia, transport hub

Main industries / business
electrical engineering, chemicals and pharmaceutics, textiles, food and beverages, and tourism

Political structure
administrative seat of both Zagreb City and County, city assembly as representative body; mayor and city government as executive bodies

Administrative structure
17 districts

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Background and objectives

In 2011, there were 45,916 registered unemployed in the city of Zagreb, of which 19.1% were people without a formal high school education and 9.4 % were war veterans. It is difficult for these groups to acquire new skills and become active on the labour market, meaning many remain on social benefits for extended periods of time and face social exclusion and poverty.

A significant amount of city resources are also spent on maintaining the city’s green spaces like Medvednica and Park Maksimir. These nature parks and green areas require significant resources for their preservation and cleaning due to the amount of rubbish illegally disposed there including: vehicles, tires and household appliances.

Implementation

The education and training project is designed to activate unemployed people by having them work on the preservation and clean up of green spaces. In return they are entitled to attend education and training courses, which improve their chances on the labour market. The city covers the cost of the courses, which range from €400 to €1,000 per course per participant.

The participants choose a programme according to their needs and interests. The courses range from elementary, secondary and high school education to vocational training. The latter includes:

  • 18 occupational trainings: with the majority of participants selecting trainings to become shop sales assistants, hotel maids, assistant cooks and accountants.
  • 11 educational programmes in the healthcare and beauty sector: with the majority of participants selecting trainings to become physiotherapists, nursery assistants, nannies, hairdressers and beauticians.
  • 5 trainings in catering: with the majority of participants selecting trainings to become cooks or assistant cooks. 
  • 4 occupational trainings in office administration: among which the most frequently selected occupation is office administrator.
  • 8 educational programmes in electricity and gas installations: with the majority of participants selecting occupations as installers of gas and heating equipment, and installers of air conditioning devices. 
  • 21 educational programmes in construction: among which the most frequently selected occupations are painters and bricklayers.

The participants work full time on green space maintenance, but they are registered at the Croatian employment service and receive unemployment benefits. The national Act on Job Placement and Unemployment Insurance allows people to retain their right to unemployment benefits while participating in the project. The participants are trained on how to treat particular types of waste and pass a health and safety course before they start working in the parks and green spaces. Two experts manage the participants on site.

Financing and resources

The city of Zagreb manages the project and cooperates with the regional employment service and the local education institutions. The project is fully funded by the city. The expenses are offset by a reduction in the cost of the regular maintenance of the city’s green spaces.

Results and impacts

Since 2005 about 300 unemployed people have participated annually in the project. All of the green area maintenance activities are implemented manually, without chemicals that could have a negative effect on the environment. In addition to park maintenance, a significant number of streams and lakes have been cleared of debris. The project participants also regularly remove illegally disposed waste from forests, lawns, lakes and other water reservoirs.

The project motivates people who have been unemployed for a long time to enter the labour market and engage in ambitious educational programmes. With these new competencies and skills, their employability, competiveness and self-confidence increases. Around 30% of the project participants subsequently found employment, which has had a positive effect on poverty reduction and has decreased pressure on the social budget and social services. 

Barriers and challenges

The main challenge that occurred during the design and implementation of the project was the question of how to encourage people who are long term unemployed with low educational attainment to pursue ambitious educational programmes. This was overcome by closely aligning the training offers to existing opportunities on the local labour market.

Creating training with clear jobs prospects is however challenging during the economic crisis, since there are even fewer jobs for people with lower qualifications. However, since craftsmanship and skilled manual labour is currently the main generator of employment in Croatia, the city is now adding a new training to support self employment in these sectors. There are also plans to include new educational programmes related to the green economy, such as training as an ecological technician.

Lessons learned and transferability

In Green Jobs for social inclusion (see references), EUROCITIES identifies three main factors that contribute to the success of these city initiatives to create green jobs for social inclusion at the local level.

They are:

1. Combining demand and supply side interventions:  an intervention does not solely focus on developing people’s competences, skills and motivation (supply side intervention) but also aims to create a tangible route into the labour market (demand side intervention).

On the demand side, the programme's objective is to provide a ‘protected’ working environment with the view of supporting people to gain real work experience to enable them to compete in the mainstream labour market.

These demand side interventions are then complemented by well-matched activation and training measures (supply side interventions) helping people to gain specific skills and improve their chances of accessing the labour market.

2. Linking the interventions to local employment opportunities

The second success factor is the strong link between the programmes and local employment opportunities. Cities as the level of government closest to the people have an in-depth knowledge of their local labour markets. They can design programmes in line with local economic demand and prepare people for jobs that are available locally. The effectiveness of the demand and supply interventions is made stronger when they are grounded in local businesses and job market needs.

3. Tailoring activation measures to the specific needs of people

The third success factor of the programmes is linking the activation measures to the specific needs of the target groups.

For local authorities, programmes that combine greening and social inclusion bring added value, particularly during periods of budgetary constraint and growing demand for services. Integrated programmes that address several objectives with one investment bring efficiency to local interventions. Given the longer term perspective of the sector, linking job seekers to local jobs in the green economy should continue to bring results as the sector is set to grow.

More information on the success factors: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/green_jobs_for_social_inclusion_intro_FINAL.pdf

References

"Local strategies to implement national energy efficiency schemes", in Green Jobs for social inclusion, EUROCITIES, June 2015, 34-35.


External links / documents