Changing social citizenship through information technology

Karolina Sztandar-Sztanderska, Marianna Zielenska


This presentation investigates how profiling technology introduced by a recent reform of Public Employment Services (PES) in Poland influenced social citizenship in the area of active labour policy (ALMP). This reform represents a move away from legally defined target groups distinguished by a single and objective characteristic (such as duration of unemployment or age). Instead, the access to services and benefits is determined on the basis of multiple non-transparent and seemingly technical criteria (for similar accounts, see van Berkel 2011; Dubois 2009) inscribed in the IT tool: the profiling programme scores personal characteristics and attitudes towards work – the so called “employment potential” – according to a hidden algorithm. This computer-integrated assessment has significant consequences as those who are classified as lacking “employment potential” (i.e. approximately 33% of the unemployed population) have no possibility to appeal against the decision and become formally excluded from most forms of active labour market programmes (Niklas et al. 2015).

Moreover, the reform introducing profiling technology has been carried out outside the mechanisms of democratic oversight. The operating principles of the profiling tool have not become a part of the regular legislative process, though this instrument is undoubtedly political in nature since it affects distribution of public services. They have not been publicly disclosed, nor consulted with different administrative bodies as well as social partners and civil society organizations as it is the case of regular legislative process.

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