Five interesting recommendations to get Britain working
There are just short of one million more unemployed people than there were at the beginning of 2008 – so what do the thinking heads recommend that we do about it?
It seems to have become a fact of life in recent years that unemployment (post world recession/credit crunch/banks collapsing/financial apocalypse) is growing. From my own experience, facing the very real, unpleasant reality of unemployment can be an extremely isolating and demoralising experience (as I explored in my previous blog post).
BUT there is a light amid the gloom. There are people, lots of people, from The Work Foundation to The Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, who make it their job to examine how to tackle this multidimensional and complex issue. And they have lots of ideas from in-depth research and evidence analysis, which they document in lots of reports.
Part of my research, interning at Nesta, has involved reading a number of these reports and looking at the recommendations. I have picked out the five that I found most interesting.
1. Policy Exchange: Transfer the delivery of employment support for all claimants entirely to the private and voluntary sector.
I must admit that this recommendation did worry me a little but it is interesting because of the debate it provokes. The reality of the recommendation entails outsourcing employment services to private and third sector providers. There are elements of this recommendation existing already within the Department of Work and Pensions' Work Programme. It's too early to say whether this massive payment-by-results contracting exercise will reap any successes,[i] so I would be cautious about further transferral of responsibility until we have seen more evidence.
2. DEMOS: Social landlords should ensure that all into-work services they provide have clear objectives, are founded on a robust analysis of costs, benefits and risks, and are expertly managed and evaluated.
This recommendation very much follows the tone of all the other recommendations I came across. But I found this particularly interesting because it seems quite innovative, in that it looks at joining up public services across policy areas in order to streamline delivery.
3. IPPR: All local authorities should conduct a feasibility study by April 2015 into the costs and benefits of introducing the living wage for all directly employed staff, measuring and publishing the costs of doing so.
This is definitely not new recommendation, and the idea of a living wage has been gaining traction for a while now. But I have included it because it pushes the government, both regional and national, and policy makers to go further than 'committing to the idea' of a living wage. It is a catalyst on making the living wage a reality and making work pay.
4. The Work Foundation: Policy makers should work with employers, sector skills councils and training providers to develop career ladders.
This is interesting because many employment services are solely focused on getting unemployed people into any job. This is admirable, but often people require guidance in the career they wish to pursue in the longer term, and often such guidance is eclipsed in the wake of getting people into work of any sort. I found this recommendation refreshing because it looks at how employers themselves should take a role in developing the futures of their employees.
5. Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Women Like Us: Government, policy-makers and employer intermediaries and membership organisations need to be encouraged to move the debate away from the threats of flexible working legislation to the business benefits of part-time job creation.
In general, I'm a bit weary of recommendations that talk theoretically about changes to be made. But in the case of this I think it highlights a very poignant idea. The benefits of good quality part-time work need to be vocalised in a forum where they can be heard by businesses, in order to tackle unemployment among a group of people that want to work and have skills to offer, but because of the design of the labour market, often face tough barriers.