Pathways to Employment

Study Protocol for a Theory-Based Non-Randomized Controlled Trial of Active Labor Market Programs Designed to Move the Long-Term Unemployed Closer to the Labor Market

  • Tina M. Olsson Department of Social Work, University of Gothenburg
  • Katarina Hollertz
  • Mikaela Starke
Keywords: Active labor market programs, unemployment, program theory, effectiveness, controlled trial, experiment, costs


Background This project’s aims are twofold (1) to uncover and define the underlying theories of change guiding competing active labor market programs (ALMP) in Sweden, and (2) to assess the relative effectiveness of these competing programs in a theory-based non-randomized controlled trial. The purpose is to assess the extent to which competing ALMPs are effective in moving long-term unemployed individuals (i.e. unemployed for 6 months or more) closer to the labor-market. Methods/Design This project will engage ALMP program administrators and service providers in semi-structured interviews. The transcribed interview material will be used as a basis for program theory reconstruction. All specified program theories will be presented back to program stakeholders for validation. ALMP program effectiveness will be assessed quasi-experimentally with pre- (T1) and posttest (T2) collection of self-reported data. Additionally, official register data from the Longitudinal integrated database for health insurance and labor market studies (LISA) will be collected for all participants. In addition, a matched sample will be collected from LISA to be used as a non-treated control group on final policy outcomes (e.g., employment, salary/wage). This study also assesses program implementation and economic outcomes of the included ALMPs. Discussion Long-term unemployment has profound impact of the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities. In addition, the effects of long-term unemployment have been found to impact subgroups differently. Today we have scant knowledge on the mechanisms that are influential in moving individuals from long-term unemployment closer to the labor market. This study is designed to answer six research questions using a variety of methods (mixed-methods) and outcome measures (self-report, official register). In addition, this study leverages official register data to construct an untreated control group. This study will assess the extent to which an emerging theory of becoming job ready holds under experimental scrutiny.

Study Protocols