The Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) program is the flagship of Greece’s social protection reforms and particularly effective by international standards in reaching poor households. Its national launch in February 2017 aligned Greece with other EU members in offering a last resort benefit. The government used the program as a platform to provide additional one-off support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to income assistance, Greece aims to help individuals in other ways. There are three interconnected pillars to the GMI program: (a) income support (EUR 200/month for a single member household with an additional EUR 100 for each additional adult and EUR 50 per child); (b) complementary social services such as food pantries and discounted utility rates; and (c) services to help support recipients find employment. The latter is important in order to promote self-sufficiency, ideally so that some participants will not always need GMI support.
But these pillars are still in motion. Employment support only recently rolled out in April 2021. Now the question is: How will benefit recipients respond and are services suited to their needs?
Findings from a pilot of reformed active labor market programs (ALMPs) in three municipalities covered by the Elefsina local employment office of the Greek public employment service (OAED) offer insights and may be of interest to countries trying to link last resort benefit recipients to employment services.
The target group was people aged 45 and above who were registered unemployed for at least six months - approximately 3,600 people. There were about 1,100 GMI recipients, nearly a third of the group. Three findings stand out from our analysis of the pilot monitoring data and the process evaluation: the need for strong outreach; the value of reducing potential barriers to participation; and the importance of “bridging” or remedial programs to enable access to technical training for the low-skilled.
Promote participation through proactive outreach
Among those in the pilot target group, only 10% of GMI recipients opted to participate (just under 140 people) compared to a third of non-GMI recipients. The most common reason GMI recipients later gave for not participating was they had not heard about the pilot. However, in other localities the Ministry of Labor had better results when municipal staff provided information and orientation at community centers on next steps and possible services: 75% of GMI recipients met with an OAED job counselor and completed an individual action plan.
In addition, public employment services often contend with a reputation for not being able to help people find a job. GMI participants said that they registered with OAED only to maintain the benefit. One person, who was eligible but did not participate in the pilot, had not contacted OAED in 3-4 years because he did not believe that the agency could help him find a job. But when the local employment office offered information sessions, helping counter this opinion, another attendee commented that the pilot was “serious and innovative.”
Reduce barriers to access
All pilot recipients had to complete a mandatory online questionnaire before meeting with an OAED counselor. GMI recipients tended to fill out the online questionnaire in a municipal or the local employment office, rather than at home. The flexible procedure reduced a potential barrier to access services.
Incorporate remedial programs
Job counselors identified participants who might require reinforcement in one or more basic skills (literacy, numeracy, and information technology) in order to be able to attend technical training. These participants took an online assessment on the spot, facilitated by OAED instructors. We found that nearly a quarter of GMI-recipient participants needed to attend basic skills training courses in one or more areas compared to 15% of non-GMI-recipients.
However, only 73% of those who were referred to basic skills training (GMI and non-GMI recipients) enrolled. This shows how important it is to follow-up with people, either though SMS or a phone call. Failure to follow-up on the referral to basic skills training meant that participants couldn’t attend technical training classes, which would have prepared them for specific careers.
Nevertheless,In all, it means that the reformed ALMPs were able to serve the majority (90%) of the GMI recipients who participated in the pilot.
World Bank technical assistance activities carried out with funding by the European Union via the Structural Reform Support Programme and in cooperation with the Commission’s DG REFORM.