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Long-term unemployment: Commission guidance to EU Member States

17 September 2015
by eub2 -- last modified 17 September 2015

The European Commission proposed on 17 September guidance to Member States to better help long-term unemployed return to work.


There are now more than 12 million people in Europe who have been unemployed for over a year. Despite the beginnings of economic recovery and improvement in the EU labour market, their number doubled between 2007 and 2014, accounting for about half of the total number of unemployed.

The Commission believes the Investment Plan for Europe has the potential to create millions of new jobs. But even when new jobs are created it is often very difficult for long-term unemployed to successfully re-enter the job market.

The proposal for a Council recommendation presented on 17 September foresees that all job-seekers who have been jobless for more than 12 months receive an individual assessment and that they receive a job integration agreement, offering them a concrete and personalised plan back to work before reaching 18 months of unemployment.

The proposal looks into the services that are offered to long-term unemployed to help them to re-enter the labour market and proposes specific actions to strengthen them. It draws on best practices gathered by Member States.

It puts forward three key steps:

  • Encourage the registration of long-term unemployed with an employment service;
  • Provide each registered long-term unemployed with an individual in-depth assessment to identify their needs and potential at the latest at 18 months of unemployment;
  • Offer a job integration agreement to all registered long-term unemployed at the latest at 18 months.

The job integration agreement should consist of a tailor-made plan to bring the long-term unemployed back to work. Depending on the existing services in each Member State it can include: mentoring, help with the job search, further education and training as well as support for housing, transport, child and health care services or rehabilitation. It should be delivered through a single point of contact to ensure the continuity and consistency of the support. It should also clearly outline the rights and responsibilities both of the unemployed and of the organisations providing support.

The proposal also calls for the active involvement of employers through partnerships with the public authorities, enhancing the range of services they can receive, as well as offering them targeted financial incentives.

Member States can implement these recommendations with the support of the European Social Fund.

The Commission's proposal will now be submitted to the Council for discussion and adoption. The implementation of the measures outlined in the Recommendation will start as soon as Member States reach an agreement.


Long-term unemployed currently represent 5% of the active population. The share of long-term unemployed of the active population varies strongly between Members States ranging from 1.5% in Austria to 19.5% in Greece.

The longer people remain out of the labour market, the more difficult it is for them to be hired again. Of the 12 million long term unemployed in the EU, more than 60% have already been out of work for two consecutive years. Each year, one in five stops trying to find a job and becomes inactive. This implies a serious risk of poverty and social exclusion for the unemployed and their families.

Although they make up half of the unemployed, only an estimated 20% of active labour market programmes are allocated to long-term unemployed and in many Member States they do not have access to individualised services. Programmes offered to long-term unemployed often do not sufficiently involve employers. Only one third of Member States coordinate the action of their employment and social services.

A number of measures are already in place at EU level:

  • Recommendations are given within the framework of the European Semester, the annual exercise of economic policy coordination;
  • Up to 10% of the European Social Fund can be used to support long-term unemployed people in the period 2014-2020;
  • The European network of Public Employment services is cooperating to exchange good practices.

The recommendation presented today will complement and reinforce these activities.

Further information

Proposal for a Council Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market

Long-term unemployment: Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation – frequently asked questions

Country factsheet: long-term unemployment in the EU