Generations Apart: The challenges of finding work from the 1960s to present
Last week's broadcast of Generations Apart on BBC Radio 4 highlights the challenges young people face finding work in today's labour market in comparison to those starting careers in the 1960s.
So how do the experiences of the children of the nineties and the baby boomers differ, and does our work offer any useful insights? As a starter, this blog post suggests three areas in which five decades of labour market change have opened the door to innovation:
1. Opportunities in a service-led labour market.
Generations Apart introduces us to Adam, who has been out of work since leaving school without qualifications at sixteen, and Derek, who also left school with no qualifications 50 years ago but walked into factory work and onto a management scheme from there. Clearly the decline in the manufacturing sector and growth of the service economy since the 1960s have undone the route into non-qualified, low-level jobs with prospects that Derek enjoyed in favour of the fewer insecure roles that Adam is competing for.
But our recent report Making It Work, which makes the case for innovation in jobs, argues that the service economy also presents opportunities to innovate in the creation and shaping of new markets that have the potential to expand local jobs. Examples include consumer subsidies for care and domestic services, and the use of complimentary currencies and vouchers to mobilise capital.
2. Navigating a flexible and deregulated system.
When Cathy got pregnant in the '60s her career was effectively ended. Deregulation in the decades that followed has opened up flexible job opportunities to mothers, but these are mostly low-paid and wage penalties endure. Nickael, a newly-qualified teacher, is pleased to be starting her career in a labour market that offers freedom and choice to women who may one day want to have children, but concerns remain for many families around balancing childcare and employment and making ends meet.
Although flexibility and deregulation can represent insecurity and low-pay in today's labour market, our report argues that they can also present an opportunity to innovate around efficient job-matching. Examples include organisations like Women Like Us, which works with employers to increase demand for part-time, skilled women returners, and technology platforms designed to match supply and demand within an 'ultra-flexible' employment system.
3. The growth of an industry for tackling worklessness.
Having already engaged unsuccessfully with Jobcentre Plus to try to find a job, Adam has been referred to a contractor of the government's flagship Work Programme to help him get into that crucial first role. Adam's contact represents only the tip of a whole industry dedicated to tackling worklessness that hardly existed when Derek and Cathy began their careers in the '60s.
Our report estimates the size of this sector at £5 billion per year, and argues that in a fully-functioning system it would be working efficiently to enable individuals to be connected to work.
This is clearly not happening across the board at present, and therefore the central argument of Making It Work is that more systematic innovation across the field of tackling worklessness is needed in order to support Adam's generation and future generations to secure work and develop careers.