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Mandatory integration agreements for unemployed job seekers
Last registered on October 27, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Mandatory integration agreements for unemployed job seekers
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006368
Initial registration date
October 26, 2020
Last updated
October 27, 2020 7:25 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
CREST
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
IAB
PI Affiliation
University of Groningen
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2012-04-01
End date
2015-07-15
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In Germany, during their first meeting, the caseworker generally assesses job seekers’ reemployment prospects and considers whether active labor market programs could help them find employment. At the end of the first meeting, job seekers usually sign a mandatory integration agreement with their caseworker, which is a written contract that specifies their rights and obligations in the job search process, such as the activities they are expected to complete. If the job seekers fail to comply with the contract, caseworkers can sanction them by reducing or cutting their unemployment benefits. There exists no causal evidence on the effectiveness of such contracts between caseworkers and unemployed job seekers.

In this project we evaluate the impact of integration agreements on employment outcomes of newly unemployed individuals. Specifically, we randomize two aspects of the policy: the timing of the integration agreement (IA) and the advance notification of the IA. The timing of the IA is randomized as a function of the time since entry into unemployment. One treatment arm involves the IA in the first month, one involves the IA at 3 months, and one at 6 months. In addition, we randomize whether those assigned to receive the IA at 3 months also receive an advance notification of the timing of the future IA at 3 months, upon entry into unemployment. Together this enables us to analyze whether the timing of the IA affects individual labor market outcomes and whether the advance notification of the timing of a future IA has an impact.

We use rich administrative registers to observe outcomes and surveys among job seekers and caseworkers to assess the program.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Stephan, Gesine, Arne Uhlendorff and Gerard van den Berg. 2020. "Mandatory integration agreements for unemployed job seekers." AEA RCT Registry. October 27. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6368-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
From a sample of job seekers registered as unemployed in five employment agencies, we randomly assigned participants to one of the following groups:

Group 1 (One month): Job seekers signed the contract within the first month after entering unemployment;

Group 2 (Three months, with previous notice): job seekers signed the contract after three months of unemployment and were informed at the beginning of the unemployment spell that they would have to sign a contract after three months. The delay between the notice and the actual signing allowed researchers to test for effects on job seekers’ behavior in anticipation of the integration agreement;

Group 3 (Three months, without previous notice): job seekers signed the contract after three months of unemployment, but they did not receive previous notification;

Group 4 (Six months): job seekers signed a contract after six months of unemployment, without receiving any previous notification.
Intervention Start Date
2012-07-01
Intervention End Date
2013-01-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Leaving unemployment for a work
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Based on administrative data, we observe for every individual in our sample the time of leaving unemployment for work. Based on this data, we estimate the probability of having left unemployment for work before unemployment duration t.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
(1) Earnings, (2) Participation in active labor market policy and (3) reservation wages
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Based on administrative data, we observe the average daily earnings in employment and the amount of unemployment benefits as well as detailed information about participation in active labor market policy measures for every individual in our sample. We conduct a survey among participants in the experiments. Based on these survey data, we will analyse the impact of the different treatments on the reservation wage. We will focus on the reservation wage, because (i) it is closely linked to the earnings outcome in the register, and (ii) as a self-reported measure it is known to be more reliable than measures of search effort.
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We set up the experiment in five (of around 180) employment agencies. The participating agencies are geographically dispersed; some are in East and others in West Germany, and we have agencies in rural and urban areas. Moreover, there were no other major ongoing trials and re-organizations in these agencies during our trial period. Another criterium for the selection of agencies was to ensure that we end up with a sufficiently large inflow into unemployment.

80% of the individuals who registered as unemployed between July 2012 and January 2013 in these five employment agencies were randomly selected to participate in our experiment. The participants in the experiment were randomly assigned to one out of four treatment groups during their first meeting with the caseworker.

Our experimental protocol addresses two aspects: the timing of the integration agreement (IA), and whether individuals were informed about a future IA. In treatment group A individuals were supposed to sign their IA during the first month of unemployment. In treatment groups B and C individuals had to sign their IA in the third month of unemployment (if they are still unemployed). Individuals of group B received a written announcement during their first meeting with the caseworker about having to sign an IA in the third month of unemployment. Next to the timing of the IA, this announcement contains a detailed description about the typical content of an IA. It is stated that the IA will specify the type of support the unemployed gets from the public employment service, details about future participation in ALMP programs, and job search requirements. In addition to that, it is stated that non-compliance with the content of an IA might lead to a sanction in form of benefit cuts. In treatment group D, individuals sign a first IA in their sixth month of unemployment (conditionally on still being unemployed).

We designed instruction material and conducted instruction lessons with team leaders of caseworker teams in participating agencies before the project started. The team leaders, in turn, instructed the caseworkers using the material. The instruction material consisted of a presentation, a frequently-asked-questions list and a two-sided plastic slide summarizing the experimental design which was meant to be placed on each caseworker’s desk throughout the experiment. The presentation highlighted the importance of the research question and why it could only be answered by means of a randomized controlled trial. It defined the target group of the experiment, which were new entries into unemployment that were not registered as unemployed during the last quarter prior to their unemployment entry. Only individuals who were eligible for unemployment benefits were supposed to participate in the experiment, excluding individuals younger than 25 and disabled individuals. Furthermore, the material included verbal and graphical descriptions of the different treatment groups. An important part of instructions was that – apart from the different timing of IAs – other elements of the placement process were not supposed to differ across treatment groups, and that in particular all groups should have the same access to instruments of active labor market policy.

Random assignment itself was based on a computer program that was developed by the PES for evaluation purposes. Before or during the meeting with a newly unemployed person, caseworkers had to open the program and to enter the identification number, the name and the date of birth of the unemployed person. After pressing a randomization button, the program immediately showed the corresponding result, which caseworkers then had to document in the usual placement software program. In our analysis, we use the information stored by the randomization program. Beside the time and the result of the randomization, the program also stored the anonymized identifiers of the unemployed and the caseworkers. The caseworkers were not able to manipulate the randomization by for example re-running the randomization tool.

The analysis will be mainly based on administrative data containing information about UI benefit receipt, participation in active labor market policy, meetings with the caseworker, employment spells and wages. In addition to that, we make use of a survey of participants in our experiment one month after entry into UI and of a survey of caseworkers working in the agencies that participate in the RCT, one month before the RCT began. The caseworkers have been interviewed a second time around 5 months after the start of the RCT. We have additionally conducted a second survey of participants around 7 months after entry into UI. It turned out that the response rate for this second wave is rather low. In our analysis, we will mainly focus on men and not women because female labor market histories are more affected by parental leave spells that are not recorded in the administrative data.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization at the individual level, done by a computer program.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
10347 unemployed job seekers participated in the experiment
Sample size: planned number of observations
10347 unemployed job seekers participated in the experiment
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Group 1 (IA after one month): 2646
Group 2 (IA after three months, with previous notice): 2502
Group 3 (Three months, without previous notice): 2683
Group 4 (Six months): 2516
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS