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Amsterdam blocked employment programme evaluation

24 November 2008 - Last year, the municipality blocked an evaluation of the effectiveness of a programme that aims to help the unemployed start a business, Professor Mirjam van Praag claims in an opinion article in today's NRC Handelsblad.

Last week, the NICIS institute published a study that found that municipalities spend on average more than 500,000 euro on each social assistance recipient they help find a job.

This finding clearly hit a nerve. Both Alderman Freek Ossel and former Alderman and current State Secretary Ahmed Aboutaleb sharply criticised the report. Aboutaleb said that it is impossible to accurately measure the net effect of work placement programmes.

Nonsense, writes Van Praag. It is perfectly simple to assign a random sample of job seekers to a programme while assigning the rest to a control condition. If the participants in the programme do better than the control group, the difference can be ascribed to the impact of the programme.

Last year, it was suggested to carry out such an evaluation of the Eigen Werk programme that helps the unemployed start a business. However, the municipality and other stakeholders blocked the evaluation, claiming that it would be unethical to exclude the members of the control group from the programme.

Van Praag points out that in medical research, ethics committees have no problem with denying treatment to a control group. "Simply in order to know whether it works".

Photo: Eigen Werk

UPDATE 30 November - In a response, alderman Freek Ossel says that the municipality does measure the effectiveness of its work programmes, albeit not in the way Van Praag proposed.


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