Back to work via chat (

The long-term unemployed often cannot afford a computer.

The long-term unemployed often cannot afford a computer.

Foto: Aleksandr Davydov / Alamy Stock Photo

When the then red-green federal government introduced Agenda 2010 at the beginning of the 2000s, increasing impoverishment and impoverishment were the foreseeable consequences for those affected. How extraordinarily difficult it is in the year 15 after the introduction of Hartz IV to bring those who have been excluded from any social participation back into society, is shown by a scientific study in which the Federal Agency itself is involved.

At the Institute for Business Analytics at the University of Ulm, researchers have long been studying how participants in a so-called peer group, i.e. a group of like-minded people with the same interests and aspirations, exchange ideas via digital chat in order to achieve common goals. Research director Mathias Klier names the topics of weight loss, parenting and health as positive examples. In a preliminary project with the Federal Employment Agency, it was found that digital peer groups also help young people to find work, training and study.

From this, explains the holder of the Péter Horvát Endowed Professorship for Business Administration (BWL) to »nd«, the common idea for the DIGIPEG project emerged: a voluntary offer to make digital peer group exchange accessible to older unemployed people over 50 .

Chat in groups with up to 30 participants is anonymous. Interested parties can download a specific app on their smartphone or laptop and communicate with each other at any time of the day or night without having to disclose their names, addresses or other private information. A moderator from the employment agency supports you in the event of problems or answers questions about training opportunities, financial support and the like. The participants should benefit from their mutual experiences, develop a common motivation or receive support that is difficult to find otherwise.

All participants must fill out a questionnaire at the beginning and at the end of the three-month project. The scientists from Ulm University then evaluate the content of the anonymous chats. So far, around 500 “customers” from 15 Baden-Württemberg employment agencies have participated in 25 chat groups in the project, which the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics, Labor and Housing is also supporting with almost 200,000 euros, according to a research assistant. Business mathematician Mathias Klier was impressed by the first interim results to »nd«: »The participants in the digital peer groups improve their application activities significantly and are invited to job interviews more frequently.«

Specifically, the mean number of submitted applications among the participants rose by an average of 40 percent, and the number of job interviews doubled. This development was scientifically analyzed with the inclusion of a control group, which showed a constant development for both sizes. “This enabled us to demonstrate significant positive effects of the digital peer group counseling,” explains the head of research.

In times of the pandemic with closed employment agencies and job centers, in which long-term unemployed people cannot be invited to review their application activities at regular intervals as usual, it makes sense to enable the chat options also for Hartz IV recipients, thought research and administration. However, they had imagined the response to this to be somewhat different. The job center Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald with 240 registered long-term unemployed over 50 years was selected. As Dagmar Manser, managing director of the job center, announced in response to an nd request, all eligible people were written to, informed about the project and asked to participate. “About five,” said the manager, were ultimately ready to do so. The project then had to be expanded to four other job centers in the country in order to even get a chat-capable size.

So it was possible to start with 13 participants on October 5th, and by the end of October six more people could be persuaded to take part. When asked about the reasons, the manager said: »The notifications were made at short notice with little in advance. In particular, there is always very little response to voluntary measures, especially from those who have been receiving benefits for a long time. If you had been able to invite people beforehand, the response would certainly have been greater, ”Dagmar Manser is certain.

Inge Zeller, advisor to the Freiburg Initiative against Unemployment, is somewhat more skeptical about the response to the participation of Hartz IV recipients and the overall project. »The long-term unemployed are largely not financially able to equip themselves with the necessary equipment to take part in such projects. In addition, of course, they lack the knowledge and know-how to participate in digital projects, «reported Inge Zeller from the field.

With regard to the guaranteed anonymity, the counselor calls for caution. In addition, the fundamental question is not only how many of the unemployed are increasingly invited to job interviews, but also how many are actually hired and on what terms. Basically, the longer the people concerned do not find new jobs, the worse and worse the pay.


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