SYNCLUSIVE is a research and innovation project testing and studying an innovative, integral, and interdisciplinary systems’ approach to stimulate inclusion of vulnerable groups in the labour market. The project is carried out by sixteen research, academic and stakeholder organizations and SMEs across Europe. It will use Living Labs as a central research approach.

The Challenge

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainties related to the impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the accelerated energy transition, the introduction of new technologies, the ageing population are among the main factors that have an impact on the EU labour markets, the available workforce and skills supply. There has been an increase in inequality, poverty and social exclusion, and a polarisation of skill needs in the labor market, which threatens social and territorial or regional cohesion, economic growth and well-being.

Vulnerable groups take the hit of the growing and shrinking labor market due to macro-economic developments. They are the first to be ‘pushed out’ and are stimulated to re-train and educate to enter in other sectors or positions where there are human resource shortages. While it is exactly these groups who have the least capacity for resilience due to their, often multiple, combined vulnerabilities. This exclusion from participation on the labor market in the long run, leads to a widening employment gap between ‘in’ and ‘out’ or vulnerable and mainstream groups, extending well beyond the borders of work life into societal structures of solidarity, trust, satisfaction and (mental) well-being threatening social and economic resilience and sustainability and inclusive growth. Regional stakeholder collaboration in fostering labor market inclusion is often lacking, and ownership by employers is limited.

There is thus an increasing urgency to address and reduce these inequalities by stimulating labor market inclusion of groups which are vulnerable and suffer the most from inequality. Effective active labour market policies fostering the labour market inclusion of vulnerable and under-represented groups as well as upskilling and reskilling are among the key policy actions in this respect.


The Concept

Promoting labor market inclusion of vulnerable groups is not only about inclusion of vulnerable groups who are still outside the labour market. SYNCLUSIVE’s vision is that stimulating labour market mobility of current employees in organisations creates traction for inclusion of vulnerable job seekers in the regional labour market. To create labour market mobility and at the same time mitigate discrimination an innovative system-oriented approach is required. SYNCLUSIVE aims to develop, implement, and evaluate an integral and interdisciplinary systems approach to promote inflow, retention and further professional development of vulnerable groups in the labour market. The ambition is to reduce inequalities in the labour market and promote inclusion by building active regional community coalitions in 4 Living Labs to stimulate upward mobility in organizations resulting in better access of vulnerable job seekers. On the short term, SYNCLUSIVE yields outcomes directly in the regional Living Labs in the Netherlands, Finland, Portugal & Bulgaria.  

Opportunities for upscaling will additionally be reflected upon by social partners, relevant stakeholders, and experts in three other EU countries.  

In the 4 Living Labs SYNCLUSIVE develops and consolidates a network of stakeholders to test the usefulness and applicability of the system-based approach for different vulnerable groups. Within these labs drivers and barriers are identified and an integrated pack of interventions is implemented for both upward or sideward mobility of employees and the inflow of vulnerable groups. We develop interoperable and comparative indicators and standards relevant for the labour market inclusion of vulnerable groups considering the regional, national and cultural context, and assess the impact on the labour market mobility and inclusion of the vulnerable groups in the region. Lastly, transition pathways from the regional to the (inter)national EU policy level are formulated. 

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