The UK labour market has become more challenging for all jobseekers, with unemployment particularly high among young people and those with limited education and skills says a Report by the Joseph Ronwtree Foundation. This research describes the difficulty of job searching for young people seeking low-skilled work, examining three contrasting local labour market areas in England and Wales.
• Since the recession the labour market has become increasingly competitive, with fewer vacancies, which are filled more quickly. There is a deficit in labour demand.
• The areas studied have felt the recession’s impact and subsequent economic fragility. But geography matters, with substantial variation between places and occupation types. To enhance their chances, jobseekers needed good intelligence about their local labour market and employers’ recruitment practices.
• Only 24 per cent of low-skilled vacancies found for the study offered full-time, daytime work. Over half of vacancies stating the pay offered minimum wage, and 78 per cent paid under £7 an hour, making it less likely that jobseekers could travel far for them. Employers also preferred local candidates for such jobs. So although jobseekers need to search beyond their immediate neighbourhood, policies demanding wider geographical searches will not necessarily get more people into work.
• Intense competition means that many jobs are filled very quickly, facilitated by increasing internet use for recruitment. Some employers advertise vacancies online and close them as soon as they have sufficient applicants to select from. Not all jobseekers were aware how speedily they need to respond to vacancies. Those without internet access at home were at a disadvantage.
• Despite public perceptions that employers discriminate against residents from neighbourhoods with poor reputations, the study found no significant difference in positive response rates for applicants from areas with poor reputations and those with ‘bland’ reputations.
The current economic context presents one of the most challenging labour market scenarios for young people in recent decades. Young people tend to be disproportionately disadvantaged at times of economic crisis. Although supply-side measures may assist particular groups, only measures that add to the total number of jobs in weak local labour markets will have an impact on overall employment and unemployment rates.
Given anxiety about long-term scarring and welfare dependency, governments in this situation tend to emphasise the important of more active job seeking: look harder and travel further. Jobseekers, on the other hand, may become increasingly discouraged and demotivated by lack of success. Perceptions of ‘postcode discrimination’ are particularly likely in economic crisis, as jobseekers know that employers can afford to be ‘more choosy’. They seek explanations for persistent rejection.
This report emphasises the importance of very active job searching. because of intense competition, the importance of rapid reaction to vacancies and the apparent value of tailored applications, the most productive job-seeking and application practice constitutes ‘a job in itself’. However, it also suggests that more scattergun activity (i.e. applying for more types of jobs in ever more distant locations) is not always better.
Indeed any advice or policy that simply results in increased applications per vacancy may result in additional wasted employer and job seeker time.
Jobseekers need to be helped to develop good intelligence about their local labour market and develop tailored strategies for individual areas and job types. Much of this data could be generated though the websites and databases of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Leading employers and intermediaries could be encouraged to improve information to employers and applicants. Support from advisers and feedback from employers may reduce the discouraging effect of failed applications. those with no internet at home and those who rely on public transport will be at a disadvantage.
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