My mum had one job in her life. She was a teacher. Her story is very different from that of David Peña, a Spanish young man who in the past two and a half years has held 135 jobs. David’s story made me think about my daughter, Dora, and the challenges she will face in the labor market in a few years.
The world of work is changing dramatically. Over the last 15 years, 77 million people worldwide have migrated to work abroad. In 2015, 1.3 billion people (as much as the population of India) were working remotely. In the United States, 77 percent of employers recruit using social media.
All these changes will have important implications for public employment services. These services play an important role for millions of job seekers all over the world, but they do not always get the results they would like, as we can watch on this video:
They don’t seem to be making good use of Mr. Peres’ skills. By using this old-fashioned way of inserting one person into a particular job in a particular moment in time, public employment services are missing the opportunity to become key players in the world economy. The new reality requires a new mentality of supporting people through the various transitions they will experience in their lives. And how PESs can do that? By supporting skills development and right skills matching, they can create a virtuous cycle and contribute to improving people’s employability and countries’ productivity and competitiveness.
But the million-dollar question is: Are PESs ready to fully realize their potential as key agents in the world economy? The truth is that we didn’t know. So in the new book “The World of Public Employment Services“, edited by the IDB, WAPES and OECD, we surveyed 73 organizations on five continents. We learned a lot in this process, and today I would like to talk to you about three cross-cutting issues that are very important to take PESs to the next level.
|Dowload your free copy of “The World of Public Employment Services” (PDF)|
Matching skills for the life cycle
The first key is to adapt PES services to the new demands of the labor market. To do that, it is necessary to focus on those skills that are usable in many jobs. In Flanders, for example, an unemployed baker has a tool to register her formal qualifications, work experience and transferable skills. A report based on this information can make it easier for PES to convert an unemployed baker into an employed confectioner.
For a PES, having a fancy set of skills services is not enough. It needs to have people and businesses using these services. Sadly, the reality is that many PES have low coverage: in Latin America and the Caribbean less than 10 percent of employers list their vacancies in the PES. PESs with lower coverage need to develop partnerships. In Honduras, for example, the PES developed a partnership with employment organizations to co-finance and co-manage their networks. The organizations provided the offices, staff and supplies, while the PES provided procedures and systems. As a result of this collaboration, the number of businesses using the PES increased from about 112 in 2004 to over 7,000 in 2013, whereas the number of job seekers increased from 3,600 to more than 25,000 in 2013.
Strategic use of technology
One example strategic use of technology is the Netherlands. During the last global financial crisis, the Dutch PES had to cut half of its budget while seeing an increase in the number of job seekers. It managed that by heavily investing in the development of its electronic channels. It set a target of having 85 percent of clients using online services by 2014. Although this initially reduced customer satisfaction rates, by 2014 they are back to normal.
A replacement strategy is not for everyone. In some countries internet coverage is low. In others their clients’ digital skills are not quite there yet. Sweden, for example, is using an integrated or blended strategy. A client who is online and cannot complete a process can click a banner that allows a PES employee to see the client’s screen and provide assistance.
We found that low- and middle-income countries are also turning to technology-driven processes by making use of mobile technology. In Colombia, for example, the National Training Institution developed Ape Sena, a mobile application to match job seekers and vacancies. Strategic use of technology can support PES to deliver the right service through the right channel to the right people!
Right governance mechanisms
In the 1990s, Mexico had a plan to convert Riviera Maya into a luxury touristic destination. The trouble was that it had a low-educated population, the education and training institutions did not produce workers with the skills the hotels needed and the labor intermediation system did not produce enough matches as fast as they were needed. Under the leadership of the Hotel’s Association of Riviera Maya, all these actors got together and formed a partnership using a bottom-up approach. Employers offered internships to teachers and students so that they could get to know the reality of their businesses. Education and training institutions developed mechanisms to update their curriculum to the new realities of the industry. The Public Employment Service developed special services tailored to the industry needs, like a dedicated website and job fairs. There were a lot of stakeholders involved, but working together, with good leadership and the right governance mechanisms, they managed to build the Riviera Maya we know today.
And now what?
We are already living in the new world of work. If public employment services work with an old-fashioned mentality, they will lose relevance. Countries need the right talent in the right place at the right time to be competitive. They cannot afford to waste talent as they did in the movie. And we believe that with these three key success factors, you, Dora and our countries will have an extremely powerful tool to embrace the labor market challenges of the 21st century
Watch the video of the presentation of the book during the launch event.