As a member of parliament for Agora Brussels, Pepijn Kennis is the representative of the Brussels Citizens' Assembly (BCA). He examines the proposals and objectives that the BCA has formulated on employment and working conditions, and so it gives citizens a voice in the Brussels Parliament. Through parliamentary questions Pepijn is able to critically check ministers and their decisions. The questions and answers serve to check whether the demands of the Citizens' Assembly are sufficiently heard by the government. By actively involving Brussels residents in political decisions via the Assembly, we show that a democracy can also be inclusive, deliberative and participative!
The BCA on work and employment asked itself how we can help the citizens of Brussels to find a suitable job. In the name of the Citizens' Assembly Pepijn asked Minister Bernard Clerfayt 3 parliamentary questions about suitable employment:
1) Give more importance to competences instead of diplomas
2) Support organizations that support job seekers themselves
3) Language discrimination on the Brussels labour market
Competences are more important than diplomas
It is a fact that competences or experience make an employee valuable. However, diplomas are still given too much weight when it comes to recruitment on the Brussels labour market. Competences can count on less appreciation, while they are at least as important. Sometimes even more important. There are many job seekers who have the right skills but not the right diploma. In addition, there is a large group of citizens who have a diploma but cannot use it. After all, foreign diplomas are still too little recognized. Many job seekers have sufficient experience and competences, but without a Belgian diploma these tend to fade into the background. Recognizing foreign diplomas can be part of the solution, but that does not go far enough according to the BCA. A recruitment process must assess a person in her entirety, including her competences and experience.
Specifically, experience and competences should be given as much value as diplomas. The BCA proposes to engage Actiris as a tool to make competences and experience more visible to employers. In this way, Actiris can not only highlight diplomas but also other relevant skills.
Minister Clerfayt informed Pepijn that he too wants to focus on competences. Actiris encourages job seekers to describe their competences sufficiently. Actiris can then refer people to the skills validation service of Bruxelles Formation. Job seekers can ask for guidance to prepare for the test. Through the test, it is then decided which competences can be added to their Actiris file.
In addition, automatic 'matching' is used. This means that employers put the desired competences on a list. That list can then be automatically linked to a list of potential candidates. This goes beyond diplomas; competences are also a factor. Yet we often see employers focus primarily on diplomas and too little on competences.
Almost 2000 people were offered the opportunity to have their skills validated by Bruxelles Formation. Only 750 job-seekers took up the offer. That doesn't seem much to us. Agora will ask for more figures to find out exactly how many people are referred to Bruxelles Formation. After all, in order to proceed in a targeted manner, we need a picture of how many people are able to validate their skills via this service.
Discussion in the commission
Supporting organizations that support others
The citizens of the Brussels Citizen's Assembly ask for more support for the creation of organizations such as "Duo for a job" and "Cosearching". These types of non-profit or public organizations put job seekers in touch with fellow citizens who have more professional experience. As godfather or godmother, they support and coach job seekers in their search for a fulfilling job, a sort of mentor. Concretely, the Brussels Citizens' Assembly wants to know more about the current state of affairs of such projects.
Actiris works together with about 200 partner organizations. The large structure of Actiris means that it has to rely on an extensive network that can work more flexibly than the public services themselves. The partners of this network can apply for funding. They are invited to submit projects. An independent jury will then decide how much budget will be made available for a specific project. Both the organization "Duo for a job" and "Cosearching" currently benefit from this funding.
Agora is pleased to hear that the objectives of the Brussels Government correspond to those of the Citizens’ Assembly. Helping the inhabitants of Brussels to find a suitable job is most important. We encourage the cooperation between Actiris and its network. However, Agora wants to emphasize that a mentorship can be a creative solution to offer employees more security and stability. In 2019, there was already a budget allocated for this project through "Duo for a job". Agora is therefore very curious about the scale of this project and its results.
Finally, Agora hopes that there will be a new call to submit projects for supported employment. After all, there is still a shortage of support for certain target groups in some sectors.
Discussion in the commission
Stop language discrimination!
Brussels is one of the most language-diverse cities in the world. More than 115 languages are spoken in Brussels. Unfortunately, not everyone in Brussels has the privilege of learning to speak and write several languages fluently. Many job seekers have a mother tongue that is different from Dutch or French. However, this does not mean that they did not learn the language. Nevertheless, these people are still too often discriminated against today. When recruiting, candidates are often required to have either French or Dutch as their mother tongue. Because one in three Brussels residents is of foreign origin, this group frequently does not get the same opportunities during the recruitment process. The BCA believes that these language requirements are unjustifiably high for some professions.
Minister Clerfayt addressed Agora and acknowledged that discrimination on the basis of language is indeed prohibited and therefore not admissible. He informed us about some interesting initiatives, which, however, increase the language skills of job seekers rather than reduce discrimination. Actiris has introduced several measures to detect and combat language discrimination, and there is also the 'Actiris Inclusive' service where victims of language discrimination can lodge complaints. Unfortunately, Unia did not receive a mandate to also take care of these victims. This must change in the future in order to provide optimal support. After all, there is currently no contact point for language discrimination.
Today, 17.3% of the job seekers in Brussels do not speak the national language, which is a lot and something needs to be done about it. Minister Clerfayt therefore invested in a platform called Brulingua. This will give all Brussels residents the opportunity to take free language lessons online. Those lessons in Dutch, French or English will be provided in 24 European languages and some others.
However, the Citizens’ Assembly points out both the language aspect and discrimination based on language. Therefore, it is important to punish employers severely when they discriminate on the basis of language.
Discussion in the commission