“The interim report of the Commission on the Future of Employment Support was published on 25 July, and is working to develop evidence-led proposals for reform of our system of employment support and services.
The report presents findings from the first six months of the Commission’s work, comprising a Call for Evidence that received around one hundred responses; twenty consultation events, workshops and focus groups; and an extensive review of the literature around ‘what works’ in employment support.
In all, over 200 individuals and organisations have participated in this first phase of work, making this the largest consultation on our system of employment support and services in at least a generation.
The Commission is being managed by the Institute for Employment Studies in partnership with Financial Fairness Trust, and is being overseen by ten Commissioners with a range of backgrounds and expertise.
The report sets out many positive examples of effective employment support, employer engagement and partnership working. However, it also found a range of evidence that our approach needs major reform if it is to meet the challenges and opportunities that will be faced from demographic, economic and technological changes.
In particular, it finds that our system:
Is to narrow in its focus, with the UK having the least well-used employment service in Europe (with four times as many jobseekers using equivalent services in France and Germany, for example)
Overly emphasises entry to ‘any job’ rather than the right job, the quantity of job search rather than its quality, and monitoring compliance rather than empowering jobseekers
Often has a limited offer for employers, focused on vacancy gathering and job applications, with little joining up with wider business support (especially in England)
Struggles to coordinate effectively across services, particularly with skills and careers support, and to deliver employment support in different settings
Appears to have become locked in a cycle of short-term funding, contracts and initiatives – making it hard to plan and invest for the future
These issues are particularly important now because new analysis set out in the report shows that employment growth is set to slow markedly in the coming years.
Over the first two decades of this century, employment grew by on average 300,000 a year. However over the next two decades, as a result of our ageing population, falling birth rates and lower labour market migration, employment will grow at less than half this rate, at just over 100,000 a year.
This means that governments and employers will no longer be able to rely on labour supply to support higher economic growth. They are going to need to do far more both to raise participation in work and to be more productive in work.