Better control without additional resources – this was the result when Arbetsförmedlingen, the Swedish public employment service, introduced automatic risk-based reviews of activity reports. For this, Arbetsförmedlingen recently received a good practice award by the International Social Security Association.
– Automatic and risk-based reviews contribute to legal certainty, uniformity and efficiency in our control. We are very proud and grateful that our work has been noted and would like to thank all the colleagues that have been involved,Stefan Popovic, Head of Department at Arbetsförmedlingen, says.
Once a month, jobseekers in Sweden must submit an activity report, based on their action plan. The activity report shows what the jobseekers have done to get a job, for example if they have completed mandatory activities and what jobs they have applied for. In 2021, an average of around 354,000 activity reports were submitted each month.
Arbetsförmedlingen must review all activity reports within 14 days. Since it takes on average five minutes to review one activity report it would require quite a lot of resources to review all of them manually. It is also to be noted that a vast majority of the jobseekers comply with the stipulated demands, leaving no reason for the Arbetsförmedlingen to take any further action. Manually reviewing all reports is therefore not cost-effective, and that is the reason why the agency decided to develop an automatic and risk-based system that would also improve control. The aim was to focus manual control on reports with high risk, and thereby strengthen the overall control without using additional resources.
The automatic risk-based system divides reports into high and low risk ones. Low-risk activity reports are automatically marked as reviewed and high-risk reports are filtered out for manual review. An activity report is sorted for manual review if, for example, the jobseeker has not carried out all mandatory activities in the action plan, has not applied for jobs that she/he has been instructed to apply for and/or has not actively searched for jobs. The activity reports are also sorted for manual review if there is a risk of fraudulent behaviour on the part of a jobseeker by reporting applications to identical jobs.
It is clear that the automatic risk-based reviews have made a difference. In 2020 the manual review of activity reports required 116 full-time employees – if all activity reports had been reviewed completely manually, 163 full-time employees would have been needed.
Another result is that Arbetsförmedlingen now acts to a greater extent on jobseekers who are not, for example, active enough in their job seeking activities. Jobseekers that receive a financial sanction are incentivized to change their behaviour and become more active. The average number of jobs applied for has therefore increased, from less than four per month in January 2018 to over six per month in September 2021.
Some lessons have been learnt along the way, concerning the development of a automatic risk-based review system:
- Extensive changes take time. It is best to start on a small scale and scale up when the main functions have been tested and evaluated.
- Automatization should only take place when it can be achieved with maintained or improved control.
- Follow-up is important. It is a good idea to continuously evaluate the automated functions to make the necessary changes, in other words to increase the level of automatization even further or to increase the level of control.
Lena SKIOLD, Arbetsförmedlingen