Edenred, gold partner of this year’s conference, highlight a successful – and ongoing – case study of local government in Belgium using social investment and technology to benefit the long-term unemployed.

In just five months since its launch, an innovative voucher scheme to alleviate unemployment in Belgium managed by Edenred has seen more than 1,000,000 vouchers issued.

Long-term unemployment is a serious issue across Europe, and Edenred in partnership with the Belgian VDAB, the public employment service of Flanders, has established the Wijk-Werken system that has had a significant impact on solving the issue of getting the unemployed back into work.

Back in February 2016, in an EU Council recommendation, EU Member States stressed that ‘long-term unemployment increases the risk of social exclusion, poverty and inequality, and adds to the costs of social services and public finances’.

It is a major challenge for European public authorities to strengthen the inclusion processes of those sections of the population at risk of exclusion. To alleviate this, The Belgian VDAB’s voucher system has allowed unemployed people to smoothly reintegrate into the job market by fulfilling short-term missions without losing their unemployment benefits.

How the Wijk-Werken voucher scheme works

Launched in January 2018, the Wijk-Werken voucher system allows municipalities, schools, social action centres, non-profit associations as well as any private individual to access pre-defined services by VDAB at an attractive price. It typically includes gardening, cleaning, small repairs, harvesting, social actions, etc.

The service providers are unemployed people who are willing to reintegrate into the job market but who are not completely ready for it yet. With the Wijk-Werken system, they can progressively step back into active life and earn additional income while still benefiting from the unemployment scheme. In doing so, the Wijk-Werken is also a good way to fight against undeclared economy. 

Key facts and figures

The service providers are paid 4,10 euros per hour, free from any taxation and can work up to 60 hours per month. As the outcome of the scheme is to get people out of long-term unemployment, service providers can benefit from the Wijk-Werken system for a duration of up to 12 months.

Since its launch in January 2018, more than 16,000 organisations or private individuals have registered into the system and asked for services, which led to the production of more than one million vouchers, managed by Edenred. The system has proved to be successful as the demand for Wijk-Werken vouchers keeps growing daily.

An innovative solution in a process of digitalisation

Organisations or private individuals can consult online the list of available services in their municipality.  Once registered at the local neighbourhood-work office, they can order directly the Wijk-Werken. The local neighbourhood-work office is then in charge of matching the demand for services with the service providers’ competences and availabilities.

As from July 1st 2018, the vouchers for legal persons (80% of the demands for services) will be fully digitalised, whereas the individuals will still have the choice between paper and digital vouchers.