Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Setting the context | Transformation of the economy and labor market in Poland

First is first. In order to engage in any discussion about e-skills and employability, it is necessary to understand the basic context of the Polish economy in the last twenty years and the effects of those changes in the labor market. I am not claiming to be an economic historian! The discussion of these changes is simply the product of some basic research and the interviews we had with the NGO staff, trainees, and private sector reps.

Three transformations are crucial to understand the role of e-skills in the labor market in Poland: 1) The shrinking of the industrial and agricultural sectors in relation to GDP accompanied with a rapid growth of the services sector reaching 65% of the GDP in 2006*; 2) A decrease in the unemployment rate that started together with the accession to the EU (estimated at 14% compared to 20% in 2003). This decrease is also the result of a big migration of Polish qualified workers to other EU countries and 3) A swift of bargaining power from the employer to the employee.

In relation to e-inclusion programs targeting employment for disabled people all these transformations are incredibly relevant. The increase in the service sector generates an array of job positions that are highly suitable for people with physical disabilities since they don't require people to be physically present in an office (i.e. telework, web design, data bases programming, etc.)

Qualified employees are in such in demand in this country that employers are almost forced to offer good salaries and benefits to attract valuable human resources to their companies and this includes people with or without disabilities. Although as my next post will explain, this is far from perfect since there still exists in the business culture a pervasive prejudice against people with disabilities, the business environment is changing and with it so the misconceived perception of what a disabled person can achieve professionally.

As with all transformations, there are factors that affect possibly and negatively the labor market, but in general there seems to be a momentum to increase the participation of disabled people in the workforce.

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