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Results of the experiment “Long-term unemployed take the lead” in Aarhus

27 March 2017

By André Thelin Nielsen


In the City of Aarhus a social experiment is unfolding. The experiment gives long-term unemployed a chance to take matters into own hands and try to facilitate their way back to employment. The experiment is called “Long-term unemployed take the lead”. Inspired by a project in London, where the homeless were given financial support to fix their housing situation, a similar concept is sought implemented within the employment sector in Aarhus. 

The core principle of the project is that the unemployed knows best how to get back into employment, and that knowledge should be used. Therefore, the unemployed are given the opportunity to make a plan with steps they can take on their road back to employment, receive financial support and sparring from the job consultants, employers from local companies and citizens in the same situation as themselves. The experiment is facilitated by “Jobcenter Aarhus” and focuses on long-term unemployed above 30 years of age. It runs for two years and includes 100 participants that can apply for up to 6.725€ to facilitate their road to employment.

Data will be collected throughout all the phases for evaluation and optimization of the best practice model.

The experiment is divided into 6 phases:

  • Phase 1: Focus is partially on finding a way to implement the experiment, both economically and legally.
  • Phase 2: The experiment began including the citizens. 15 handpicked participants were recruited and individual courses were done. The individual courses place the participant with a job consultant, and together they work out a course for employment
  • Phase 3: Continued with another 15 handpicked participants, this time with collective courses. The collective courses include the participants in groups where they meet with others in the same situation, and consultants and employers from companies that explains what they are looking for in (new) employees and tips and tricks for job-interviews.  
  • Phase 4: The experiment continued with both individual and collective courses, but this time the 20 participants were randomly chosen.
  • Phase 5: Implementation of what has shown to be the best practice, and include 50 randomly chosen participants that will undergo a collective course.
  • Phase 6: Evaluation and change on the level of national policy will be the focus.


What is the money used for?

The financial support during the experiment is paid for by THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS and the City of Aarhus. The City of Aarhus supports what can be done within the legal framework, while VELUX supports those parts of the initiative that stretch outside the limits of the law.

The criteria for receiving financial support is that the money is spent on something that brings the citizen closer to employment. The graphic below illustrates what the citizens have requested financial support thus far.


The Y-axis shows the amount of citizens, that 

applied. The X-axis shows what item the citizens applied for financial support for. Citizens can apply for more than one item.

A majority of participants during phase 2 and phase 3 requested financial support to help with self-employment, which is not supported by the current law. As these participants were chosen by the job-consultants they may have been so because they expressed interest in becoming self-employed. As 16 out of the 44 participants in the first 4 phases wanted to become self-employed, they have been encouraged to participate in complimentary actions such as entrepreneur-workshops. At the time of writing 9 of the 16 participants that wanted to become self-employed have succeeded in doing so.


What do the participants say?

The participants themselves expressed that they feel a larger amount of responsibility and control over their own lives when being met with trust and confidence by the job-counselors. At the same time, they experience the new initiative as something “fresh” and tailored to their situation, and so they avoid the typical “one size fits all” courses.

As said by one of the participants:

I’ve felt alive again. One kind of lulls in when unemployed. You become a couch potato and you are not getting the initiatives done that you probably should. So, this has been really good”.  

As mentioned earlier, there were experiments with both individual courses and collective courses in phases 2 and 3. The collective method will be incorporated into the best practice model, as it is generally praised by the participants. According to the participants themselves this is because the interaction with company consultants and other unemployed is viewed as valuable. Another reason is that the participants on the individual course have been requesting some interaction, inspiration and sparring from other citizens and company consultants.



It is still not possible to say anything concluding about the program, but as of January 2017, 14 of the 27 participants that took part in phases 2 and 3 are no longer on unemployment benefits, while the participants in phase 4 began their activities in February 2017. As already mentioned, 9 of the 16 participants that wanted to become self-employed succeeded in doing so, and as such the experiment has shown that there is a considerable amount of unemployed that wish to take a step into the world of entrepreneurship which may be worth paying attention to.