1st December 2014
Judith Pühringer, managing director of bdv austria critized in a press talk the budget cuts of the Austrian Employment Service. Mainly in Upper Austria a severe reduction threatens the social enterprises: approximately 200 work places of limited duration are in danger, serving as a pathway back to the labour market for long-term unemployed people. Also individual offers of counselling and support and measures for further qualification should be drastically reduced. In total the 2015 budget of the Austrian Employment Service is 21 million lower than this year. Because a large proportion of the budget is earmarked for special tasks – for example elder unemployed – there is a great necessity for budget cuts. Pühringer: “Bearing in mind the ever increasing number of unemployed people these cuts are the wrong reaction.”
Better basic conditions for social enterprises
Furthermore, Judith Pühringer pleads for more favourable conditions for social enterprises allowing them to act in a more business-like manner. All over Europe social enterprises are regarded as “future hope”, because among other aims they can contribute to decrease the great unemployment rate of youth.
In Austria, social enterprises – in comparison with other countries – receive a high proportion of public funding, but at the same time they are obliged to follow very strict rules. Pühringer: “Social enterprises offer the chance to create additional work places for those people who have the biggest problems in finding a job. By imposing such strict rules Austria now misses a lot of chances”. In this context, the managing director of bdv austria calls for the possibility that social enterprises can employ additional people that are not subsidised when this is economically possible and necessary for the business. She also pleads for more flexibility concerning the duration of the stay in the social enterprise, especially for those very far from the labour market.
Testimonial: Networking across Europe concerning integration into the labour market
Interview with Charlotte Gruber about the European network ENSIE where bdv austria was a founding member.
1) bdv Austria is a member of the European Network for Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE). What exactly is ENSIE, who are the members?
ENSIE is a European network of Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE). The main purpose of these enterprises is to support unemployed people to (re-)enter the labour market by offering them a work contract. ENSIE represents the interests and issues of social integration enterprises on European level, keeps contact with the relevant departments of the EU Commission (Employment and Social Affairs, Internal Market, Competition) and with the EU Parliament.
I am very pleased that during our last general assembly again two new members joined ENSIE: the Netherlands and Bulgaria. So ENSIE has now 26 members from 20 different countries (18 EU member states plus Switzerland and Serbia).
ENSIE is also a member of Social Economy Europe, a union of different networks of cooperatives, foundations and mutuals and of Social Platform, an open platform of networks and organizations from the social sector.
2) What are the main issues of this European network?
The main issue is to represent the interests of WISE’s. We want to participate on EU level in the development of the framework for this sector.
The main fields of activities of ENSIE are therefore:
· To support the exchange and the cooperation of member networks
· To write statements and position papers in order to influence the EU labour market policy and the fight against social exclusion
· A close cooperation with other European networks
Thus ENSIE supports the following EU targets for a sustainable development:
· Integration into the labour market and social inclusion of disadvantaged people by increasing their employability and productivity
· Strengthening the role and economic performance of WISE’s within the whole economy
· Promoting equal opportunities and gender mainstreaming
3) bdv austria is a member since the beginning (2001), even a founding member. How did ENSIE change over the years?
Since its foundation ENSIE was and is steadily growing and has increased its importance. There were only six networks from five countries that founded ENSIE (Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, Spain) together with CECOP, a European network of cooperatives, but since 2010 CECOP is no longer a member.
We have to specially thank our Belgian members that by participating in many EU events ENSIE became more and more visible. The engagement of a permanent coordinator was the basis for a continuous professionalization, the participation in various projects allowed to employ a second person. Since 2011 ENSIE is funded through the PROGRESS programme for its networking.
Meanwhile ENSIE is a recognized network for employment of disadvantaged people and receives more and more invitations to conferences and meeting to give an input.
4) At present what are the most important projects?
ENSIE is a member in the EU expert group on social entrepreneurship (GECES) and is in particular engaged in the topics of public procurement and impact measurement. The network participates in various consultations on EU guidelines and incorporates the positions of its members into the papers. In 2014 ENSIE produced position papers on rules for the value added tax for public authorities and tax exemptions in general public interest as well as on state aid and exemption provisions.
ENSIE is the lead partner in the project Europe4all that promotes the participation of the EU civil society in EU topics. ENSIE is also a partner in the project RE:DIALOGUE that wants to strengthen the participation and the social dialogue in WISE’s.
ENSIE as member of the Social Platform was invited to the EU conference of ministers of employment and social affairs in July 2014 in Milan to promote the issues of social economy.
5) Where do you see the main challenges for the future?
I think the continuous improvement of the general framework is very important and also the implementation and the further development of social enterprises in the new member states in Eastern Europe. Also the development and distribution of evidence-based impact measurements, the public procurement question and the taxation of WISE’s need our attention.
And of course we will continue to intensify our contacts to relevant EU networks and the EU institutions.