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Faces of Joblessness: Characterising Employment Barriers to Inform Policy


  • Fernandez, Rodrigo


  • Immervoll, Herwig

    () (OECD)

  • Pacifico, Daniele


  • Thévenot, Céline



This paper proposes a novel method for identifying and visualising key employment obstacles that may prevent individuals from participating fully in the labour market. The approach is intended to complement existing sources of information that governments use when designing and implementing activation and employment-support policies. In particular, it aims to provide individual and household perspectives on employment problems, which may be missed when relying on common labour-force statistics or on administrative data, but which are relevant for targeting and tailoring support programmes and related policy interventions. A first step describes a series of employment-barrier indicators at the micro level, comprising three domains: work-related capabilities, financial incentives and employment opportunities. For each domain, a selected set of concrete employment barriers are quantified using the EU-SILC multi-purpose household survey. In a second step, a statistical clustering method (latent class analysis), is used to establish profiles and patterns of employment barriers among individuals with no or weak labour-market attachment. A detailed illustration for two countries (Estonia and Spain) shows that "short-hand" groupings that are often highlighted in the policy debate, such as "youth" or "older workers", are in fact composed of multiple distinct sub-groups that face very different combinations of employment barriers and likely require different policy approaches. Results also indicate that individuals typically face two or more simultaneous employment obstacles suggesting that addressing one barrier at a time may not have the intended effect on employment levels. From a policy perspective, the results support calls for carefully sequencing activation and employment support measures, and for coordinating them across policy domains and institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Fernandez, Rodrigo & Immervoll, Herwig & Pacifico, Daniele & Thévenot, Céline, 2016. "Faces of Joblessness: Characterising Employment Barriers to Inform Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 9954, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9954

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Omar S. Arias & Carolina Sánchez-Páramo & María E. Dávalos & Indhira Santos & Erwin R. Tiongson & Carola Gruen & Natasha de Andrade Falcão & Gady Saiovici & Cesar A. Cancho, 2014. "Back to Work : Growing with Jobs in Europe and Central Asia," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 16570, June.
    2. Bruno Contini, 2009. "Youth Employment in Europe: Institutions and Social Capital Explain Better than Mainstream Economics," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 97, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.
    3. Thomas Barnay, 2016. "Health, work and working conditions: a review of the European economic literature," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 17(6), pages 693-709, July.
    4. Holly Sutherland & Francesco Figari, 2013. "EUROMOD: the European Union tax-benefit microsimulation model," International Journal of Microsimulation, International Microsimulation Association, vol. 1(6), pages 4-26.
    5. Marion Devaux & Franco Sassi, 2015. "The Labour Market Impacts of Obesity, Smoking, Alcohol Use and Related Chronic Diseases," OECD Health Working Papers 86, OECD Publishing.
    6. Dan Finn & Rebekka Grun & Katia Herrera-Sosa & Herwig Immervoll & Cristobal Ridao-Cano & Gokce Uysal & Ahmet Levent Yener, 2013. "Activating Vulnerable People into Good Jobs in Turkey," World Bank Other Operational Studies 21124, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ipf:psejou:v:41:y:2017:i:3:p:335-358 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Yosuke Jin & Aida Caldera Sánchez & Pilar Garcia Perea, 2017. "Reforms for more and better quality jobs in Spain," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1386, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item


    unemployment; employment barrier; activation; targeting; latent class; active labour market programmes;

    JEL classification:

    • C38 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Classification Methdos; Cluster Analysis; Principal Components; Factor Analysis
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy
    • J82 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Labor Force Composition

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