Shaking up the employment services in Ukraine to leave no one behind

12 Jun 2017

 Ukraine’s employment services are changing the way they design and deliver services.

By Olena Ivanova, Sheila Marnie and Vesna Dzuteska-Bisheva

Decent work is a key priority for Ukrainians, and a serious challenge for individuals and state institutions alike. Not only Ukraine is undergoing a process of economic transformation, but the armed conflict in the East contributed to seriously disturb its labour market.

One of four employed people in Ukraine work in the informal sector. The education and vocational training system does not produce the skill sets demanded by employers; youth has very limited opportunities to get a first work experience. Mobility of the labour force is low. In rural areas and small towns hardly any new jobs are created.

Compared to other countries in the region, Ukraine’s unemployment rate is only moderately high, at 9.3% (it was 7.3% in 2013); but behind these figures there are a full 1.6 million unemployed people. Out of those, one of three is a long-term unemployed – someone who has been out of work for more than 6 months. This puts a large burden on the government-funded social welfare system.

At UNDP, we focus on how to remove barriers to employment, which particularly impact women and vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, women with small children, ex-prisoners, youth with no job experience, senior persons with outdated skills, internally displaced people and ex-combatants. In Ukraine, a quota system provides special guarantees to employment of vulnerable groups. However, this has not proved effective as a longer-term solution. What is needed is a new approach where employment services and social protection measures are well integrated, to offer a continuum of services and ultimately make sure no one is left behind. A modern Employment Service can play a key role, if it accepts to go beyond its traditional functions of registering the unemployed and mediating between job seekers and employers.

Starting from June 2017, the State Employment Service of Ukraine is piloting new approaches to better integrate into the labour market people from vulnerable groups, following a methodology developed by UNDP. These pilots are now underway in seven out of the 27 regions of Ukraine. We can learn from the experience of other countries which already went through this transformation adopting concepts such as activation, client orientation, case-based profiling, and individual work plans development. Ukraine needs to listen, adapt, scale up and institutionalize.

A profound culture change is underway, and affects the way services are designed and delivered. Institutions are starting to work together, coordinated by the State Employment Service. More investment is now needed in active labour market programmes, including better use of data.

Jointly with ILO, UNDP is now supporting the State Employment System in a variety of ways. We are helping it provide a coordination mechanism for decentralized responses at the local level; design and roll out a new performance management system; diversify its active labour market programme package; improve its outreach and strengthen individual case management; and finally, put in place effective partnerships with social protection services.


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A previous UNDP initiative to help remove barriers to employment is the career guidance website It targets high-school graduates and school leavers looking for their first job.

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As a result of a methodology developed by UNDP and ILO, the share of people with disabilities finding a job after receiving support from the employment centres increased.

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