No. 1/2000 logo CEDEFOP Info



VDAB opts for an active employment policy

One of the priorities of the Flemish Government is to increase the percentage of the working population from 59.5% to 65%. This requires an additional 30 000 jobs a year for 5 years, or 150 000 new jobs. The role of VDAB is crucial in this context.

Under the recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention, the placement of unemployed persons has been opened up to the private sector; VDAB no longer has a monopoly in this area. Moreover the labour market is in a phase of rapid expansion. The Flemish Government recognises the need for regulation, which it regards as better than uncontrolled proliferation. The sharing of responsibilities between VDAB and the other players in the labour market must not be to the detriment of the protection of workers and the unemployed. The authorities must recognise labour market trends and establish a strategy based on these trends. The role of VDAB is thus changing from that of a leading player to that of a director. VDAB is therefore evolving and changing its function: whereas hitherto its intervention was essentially targeted towards the product, its action is now refocused towards the client.

The VDAB of tomorrow

VDAB is confronted with new challenges in the forthcoming legislative period. It has already proven its ability to confront new challenges (action, reaction, enlargement of commercial provision, etc.) in the past. This process affects both administrators and directors, as well as executive staff. The new challenge is that VDAB must now, for example, ask itself whether it should offer a given training course or whether the market will do so of its own accord. The market will not cover all needs, for the simple reason that it is above all profit-oriented. VDAB may however not be relegated to the function of a public centre for social assistance within the labour market, catering only for unskilled workers and the long-term unemployed. Just as the various private-sector players, VDAB must be one of the pillars of labour market policy.

VDAB in the role of director

As a leading labour market player, VDAB is in the best position to play the role of director. It has professional knowledge of the current labour market situation and must therefore design a clear 'production'. According to the Head of the Office of the Flemish Minister for Employment, it is the director who determines how and with whom the play is performed. The authorities, i. e. VDAB, therefore assign themselves a superior role to that of the other players. The authorities steer labour market processes and should therefore ensure that this policy is just and equitable.

Since this role of director is not stipulated in the relevant legislation, the Flemish minister for employment is to take the necessary steps to this effect. However he points out that a director can also be a player and with the job and training markets currently in a phase of rapid expansion, direct VDAB intervention will most certainly also be necessary. In this context any VDAB action must above take the 'common good' into account.

VDAB has some important assets for the role of director:

  1. A constantly updated unemployment register: VDAB holds the most complete register of jobseekers, which represents an important source of knowledge and data on labour market supply. In addition, it also has state-of-the-art technological information systems at its disposal, e.g. the employers' information system (WIS) and the candidate information and selection system (KISS). These systems, which enable a wide dissemination of job vacancies, CVs, training opportunities, etc., are in the long term to be merged into an electronic job-market system functioning 24 hours a day (similar to the network of automated teller machines in the banking sector).

  2. Joint management: the involvement of the social partners in VDAB management should guarantee access to labour market processes.

  3. Leading role in the Flemish labour market: VDAB plays a leading role in the labour market in conformity with the powers conferred on it by decree and the tasks it has been assigned under various agreements within the Flemish economic and social consultation committee (VESOC).

  4. With its regional bureaux in the sub-regional labour committees (STCs), the VDAB is firmly established in regional socio-economic life and is present throughout Flanders.

Local training workshops

Within the new governmental agreement, the function of director is also manifested in the form of a local approach to employment, e.g. local training workshops are to be set up under the aegis of VDAB, delivering overall services for the unemployed. This implies an important role for VDAB - provided that these training workshops replace the existing local employment agencies (ALE) and local employment counters (PLOT). These workshops - which are absolutely in concordance with the idea of creating a basic service - can offer customised services with clients choosing the approach that suits them: personal contact, on-line or by call centre, independent action or support in dealing with the various procedures. VDAB ensures that this type of training workshop is provided with all the necessary resources to meet with clients' wishes, including, among other things, consultation of job vacancies, registration, drafting CVs, consultation of training offers and vocational orientation modules.

However this approach is not merely a question of direct provision of services based on the labour market. Local training workshops must be genuine multi-service facilities at the disposal of jobseekers and provide information and solutions relating e. g. to kindergartens, mobility and health. This approach must be harmonised with the new 'social house' (MAISON sociale) concept to effectively combat inequality of opportunity by participation in the labour process.


Today's obsession with results and figures has eroded some of VDAB's enthusiasm. The Head of the Office of the Flemish Minister for Employment has made a passionate plea for extensive decentralisation and the rehabilitation of the rights of the unemployed. These are the short-term challenges. There is no a shadow of doubt in his mind that VDAB is the most effective public agency in Flanders and the most effective employment service in Europe.
Further information at:

Source: VDAB Media and Library Administration/ Icodoc


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