Barriers to employment for vulnerable groups in the Nordic countries

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This report is the second in a larger research project examining how to increase the labour force participation among vulnerable groups in the Nordic countries. In the series of reports issuing from this research project, we focus on four groups traditionally considered vulnerable in the Nordic labour markets (i.e., young people, seniors, immigrants, and persons with disabilities). In the first report, we shed light on the labour force participation among these vulnerable groups in the Nordic countries. We showed that the Nordic countries in general perform well when it comes to inclusion of these groups in the Nordic labour markets. There is, however, still room for improvement.

In this second report, we dig deeper into this complex area related to the labour force participation among vulnerable groups in the Nordic countries. More specifically, we develop a framework over employment barriers that vulnerable groups face in the Nordic countries. In developing this framework, we have benefitted from our research network of Nordic experts, who possess extensive knowledge regarding the vulnerable groups and the barriers they face. Their work has resulted in a targeted literature review covering more than 80 papers, which all relate to barriers to employment for vulnerable groups. Drawing on this literature, we have developed a framework with 24 specific employment barriers relating to either individual characteristics (BIC), economic incentives and motivation (BIM), the employer and labour market structures (BEL), or public services (BPS). The framework is presented in the figure below.

In addition to conducting an extensive targeted literature review and developing a framework, we have also endeavoured to draw analytical conclusions based on the insights from our national experts and the developed framework. For example, our work indicates that many employment barriers are shared among several of the traditional target groups and in general it seems that the traditional target groups often face several barriers, which highlights the complexity of this policy area.

In future phases of this project, inspired by OECD’s Faces of Joblessness-project, we will further investigate the potential of shifting the focus away from the traditional vulnerable groups to a more barrier-centric focus. We will do so by using the developed framework, large quantitative survey data from Eurostat, and unsupervised machine learning techniques. Our objective is to identify and group individuals according to the barriers they face rather than solely on their observable characteristics. The report will be published in the fall of 2023.

This research project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and is conducted in partnership with VIVE - The Danish Center for Social Science Research.

You can read the second publication here: "Barriers to employment for vulnerable groups in the Nordic countries"

And if you are interested, the first publication can be found here: "Labour Market Attachment in the Nordic countries"