Manuela Galetto, co-director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit and Associate Professor of Employment Relations on IPPR report, employment services
"The findings of the Institute for Public Policy Research about the inadequate quality of the Government’s employment services provide an important policy pointer in a key moment for the UK economy. Sadly, their findings come as no surprise to those who have been following the continuous de-funding and ‘marketisation’ of jobs centres of the past 20 years.
"A marketized – instead of state-run, adequately-resourced - employment service means competition with private, for-profit work agencies. Services like Jobs Centres have been therefore rewarded on the basis of the number of jobseekers placed. This creates an incentive to place job-ready service users, instead of those who need a government’s employment support service the most, such as for example low skilled, disabled workers and long-term unemployed applicants. By the same token, those who have specific skills and talents to contribute to the economy and would need tailored support in finding the best possible match are left behind because they are seen as more time-consuming cases.
"Market-efficiency principles are always problematic when it comes to the realities of people’s lives. What is needed to improve the matching of labour supply and demand is a coordinated approach.
"A wealth of scholarly research shows that adequately paid workers better contribute not only to their job, but to the entire economy, are more motivated and healthier, leading to less spending on health and mental health services and unemployment support.
"Instead, the current UK labour market is under the spotlight for low wages, dramatic staff shortages in key sectors like care and hospitals and a growing “economically inactive” population.
"Coordination, not competition, between businesses and job seekers, as well as education institutions, training providers, and quality-, not just quantity-, based mechanisms of monitoring of the evolving and geographical-specific needs of the labour markets is a necessary starting point to reverse the currently worrying socio-economic trend."
Personal note: I remember studying Jobs Centres during my Economic Sociology university degree in Italy as one of the best practices in Europe, one that showed that investments in people – meaning both the people working in the Jobs Centres and those using the service to both advertise and find jobs – were *the* way to go for the always difficult matching of demand and supply in the labour market of a market-driven economy, i.e. not a coordinated market economy where education and industry services work hand in hand to ensure the right skills are fed into the demand from the economy.