Armenia is strengthening the institute of job counselors
YEREVAN, DECEMBER 27, ARMENPRESS. As of 1st December, 81 thousand jobseekers are registered in the State Employment Service, of which around 60 thousand are unemployed. The latest labor market data show that for those who have higher education, the professions of doctor, lecturer, IT specialist and architect, especially in the provinces, are most demanded. Regarding those with secondary vocational education, the professions in finance and trade sectors, services industry, mid-level medical personnel, etc. are in demand. As to primary vocational education, the occupations of sellers, product exhibitors in the shops, domestic support services, and catering specialists are in high demand – Arman Udumyan, Acting Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia told Armenpress.
-Mr. Udumyan, how would you characterize your term in office?
-I joined the Ministry in June, 2018. Alongside the ongoing activities, the first two months I spent to familiarize myself with the main projects and activities and get better insight into the working mode and logic of the Ministry supplementing my previous sectorial experience of work both on the side of governmental and international and non-governmental organizations.
Anything specific regarding those 6 months? Primarily, we have been forwarding the ongoing programs, which are on two levels: national and international. On national level I would like to highlight the following: taking into account that the current Employment Strategy (2013-2018 ) finishes this year, we are in the process of its assessment to get the lessons learnt and outline priority directions and actions for the new 2019-2023 Strategy.
On international level, I would like to note the following. With the financial support of the World Bank, we carry out the Social Protection Administration Program. Component 2 the Program covers the employment sector. When I joined the Ministry, it had been suspended; namely, there were previously developed guidelines for active labor market programs but those guidelines were outdated and did not match with the nowadays requirements of and signals coming from the labor market. We put a lot of efforts and resources to completely review these programs, incorporate subcomponents of a) modernizing the “Gorts” software run by the State Employment Service and b) equip the software with career orientation tools. We managed to agree those changes with the World Bank and look forward to carry out them in 2019.
-What kind of activities are planned for strengthening the human capacities of the Employment Service?
-We attach great importance to the ongoing strengthening of the job counselors’ capacities. The international experience showcases that job counselors need to be specialized in one or two fields. Job counselor will not be able to duly support the jobseekers if he/she covers all the sectors of economy. Thus, the institute of narrowly-specialized counselors should be introduced. At this stage, as a pilot, we plan training and capacity building for job counselors in two fields: a) food processing and agriculture, and b) textile, light industry.
-Staff capacity strengthening may be discussed separately, yet, have the existing programs been effective? Do you see the need of reviewing them?
-First of all, I would like to say that the state employment programs have been developed based on the experience of Lithuania, Sweden and a number of other countries. I think that type- and content-wise the employment programs are quite good. We need to respond quickly to the signals coming from the labor market and thereby, making the programs more targeted. Perhaps, there is a need for increasing the financial allocations but to me, the type and content of programs are good. As a new employment program started in 2018, I would like to mention the one on compensation of wages of nurses to facilitate the mothers’ return to work. Already now we have twice more beneficiaries than we initially expected; i.e. it was planned to have about 200 beneficiaries but according to recent data, the number is 461.
-You mentioned that the programs are good enough, are based on international experience, but don’t you see a problem with their effectiveness? For example, it was noted that there is a low number of applications for "Workplace adaptation program for people with disabilities”. This is to say that the program actually exists but those who want to benefit from it are few.
-Within the framework of state employment programs, other partner organizations, both from public and private sectors, are involved as well. I wouldn’t agree with the wording of “non-effective”. The reasons for not applying may be numerous, including personal, and perhaps, at the moment the labor market does not offer competitive, attractive and which is more important, affordable jobs to people with disabilities.
-What are the data on the labor market mobility? What signals do you get from the labor market regarding the in-demand professions?
-As of 1st December, 81 thousand jobseekers are registered in the State Employment Service, of them around 60 thousand are unemployed. The latest data show that for those with higher education, particularly in the provinces, the professions of doctor, lecturer, IT specialist and architect are most demanded. Regarding those with secondary vocational education, the professions of finance and trade sectors, services industry, mid-level medical personnel, etc. are in demand. As to primary vocational education, the demand is for the occupations of sellers, product exhibitors in the shops, domestic support providers and catering services.
-The Ministry planned to re-establish the Labor Inspectorate in its full functionality. At what stage is the program?
As you know, the Labor Inspectorate was reorganized in 2013 and presently the Health and Labor Inspection Body operates under the umbrella of the Government of Armenia. Currently, it supervises the issues regarding the employees’ health and safety at the workplace. The complete control over the maintenance of labor legislation is lacking. The Ministry has developed and submitted respective recommendations to fill this gap.
-Currently the optimization of institutions is taking place and it is not ruled out that many workers are to become unemployed. Is the State Employment Agency ready to address this issue?
-First of all, let me say that optimization does not necessarily mean unemployment. Anyway, the State Employment Service is ready to step in and support.
-What programs would you specify within the framework of international cooperation?
-Just recently, in cooperation with the International Labor Organization, we finalized the agreement/project document of the "Decent Work" country program, which is ready to sign. It's a new four-year program. The program has three main priorities: improving the mechanisms of regulating labor relations; improving employment policy and enhancing employability of women and men; strengthening social dialogue and collective bargaining at all levels.
Also, I would like to mention that the Agreement on the regulation of labor migration with Bulgaria was signed. It was approved by the National Assembly and now we are discussing its implementation procedures. With this, the regulation of labor migration between the two countries will be regulated. With this agreement, on the basis of the right of residence, the nationals of Armenia have already a right to work in Bulgaria without a work permit. We have such a limitation in the EU countries, and not in all countries that citizens of Armenia can work on the basis of the right of residence only. In the near future, a task force composed of Armenian and Bulgarian representatives will be established, which will be dealing, in case of available vacancies, with types of required documents, citizens’ working conditions, as well as forms of employment contracts and other issues.
Interview by Anna Gziryan