13 January 2022

Centre of Expertise for Inclusive Organisations (CIAO) | A contribution to Dutch law

The Centre of Expertise for Inclusive Organisations (CIAO) is an institute of Maastricht University, founded in 2016 in close collaboration with the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency, UWV (Uitvoeringsinstituut WerknemersVerzekeringen). CIAO offers a knowledge platform for parties working professionally towards promoting sustainable participation in the labour market, both for those working and those searching for jobs, and especially those who are not able to participate in the current labour market independently. To further this, CIAO does scientific and practice-oriented research. It also develops various practical tools.

This years, CIAO’s approach to inclusive organisations was integrated in a new article for the SUWI law (Structure executive organisation work and income). We talked to Professor Fred Zijlstra about that approach.

A new approach

According to the new SUWI Act the Labour Market Regions are required to have the expertise that was developed by CIAO. The Netherlands is divided into 35 Labour Market Regions. In these regions, the municipalities, UWV, and possible other organisations act as a shared service centre for employers, with a central point of contact: the “Employer Service Point”. Each of these service points should offer the same services. This way, everyone in the Netherlands has access to the same resources.

One of these resources is a CIAO innovation: Advice on inclusive employership, among which job creation.

How do we employ people with a distance to the labour market? Since the United Nations formulated in 2006 the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (CRPD) this question became pertinent. For many professionals working in this domain the general notion was: “these people need to be helped”. And consequently, extra training and courses and supervisions were offered, all focused on the individual needs of the person. “That is all very nice, of course, but if you look at the core of the issue, you’ll conclude that work has become more and more complicated. The threshold for entering the labour market has increased. And therefore, the solution to this problem needs to be found in organisations.”

“We (CIAO) like to flip the statement: the labour market has distanced itself from people”. Work has become very complex and intense, and Organisations impose more and more tasks, and demands on increasingly fewer people. Low-skilled work is absorbed into other jobs to cut costs. So, the people leave, but the work doesn’t. CIAO position is that organisations should provide work that fits the qualifications of people. “This idea is now generally accepted, and now you see that this approach has been fixed within the law”.

Distance to the labour market

What is a distance to the labour market? When someone is unemployed and wants to find a job, it may take some time before this person finds a job. The time it takes to find employment is regarded as a measure for how relevant and adequate one’s competences are. When it takes a long time to find (new) employment it is assumed that this person has ‘a distance to the labour market’ (it is a concept used in labour economics). People with lack of education, training, or experience, or some kind of disability often have a distance to the labour market. Causes can be categorised as: a labour handicap (e.g.: psychological, physical, or sensory conditions) or psychosocial problems (e.g.: trauma, history of addiction, or severe financial problems).

Redesigning work

Redesigning work offers solutions to other problems within the labour market as well. “In many sectors there is a large shortage of workers, and the people that are working, are dealing with a huge workload, often more than they handle. Redistribution and differentiation of tasks can be part of the solution to this problem. When we redesign existing tasks in such a way that the demands of those tasks are in line again with the qualities and competences of people, we may be able to include a large group of people (approx. 1 mln) that are currently sidelined. This could be a two-sided sword: helping to solve the increasing shortage on the labour market, and at the same time fostering the sustainable employability of current staff by reducing work pressure.

This applies to the university as well. “Teachers have quite some administrative tasks besides the actual teaching (i.e., registering student attendance, updating and lay outing course manuals, collecting and signing forms); and researchers also do a lot of admin and logistical planning. One could think about whether some of these tasks can be performed by someone else”. By differentiation of tasks, you can, as an organisation, decrease workload and increase jobs for people who have difficulties crossing the threshold into the labour market.

This is of course, easier said than done. It takes knowledge and experience to restructure an organisation. This is where CIAO shows its strength. “First a job analysis and process analysis need to be executed, to detect what kind of tasks are available, what the requirements for those tasks are, and how they might be redistributed,etc. Furthermore, the supervision for the people entering the organization must be arranged. CIAO has shown, in many different sectors (healthcare, elderly care, logistics, governmental agencies, education, and even building- and construction companies), that this is possible”.

Opinioned Editorial Fred Zijlstra

Professor Zijlstra dives deeper into the subject in his (Dutch) opinioned editorial: Meer arbeidsmigranten? Of moeten we toch nog eens kijken naar de Participatiewet? Read the full article here.