Magazine article Management Today

Situations Vacant but No Takers

Magazine article Management Today

Situations Vacant but No Takers

Article excerpt

'Help wanted' signs are commonplace in the US. They may soon be hitting these shores too, if current employment trends continue

An interesting event will soon occur in Britain's job market. For the first time in three decades the number of vacancies in the economy will rise above the level of unemployment. There will be, in other words, more than one job vacancy for every unemployment claimant.

Currently there are around 350,000 job vacancies registered at job centres. Applying the rule of thumb that these account for only a third of all vacancies in the economy, this suggests a vacancy total of 1.05 million. Claimant unemployment is just above 1.1 million and falling.

It would be misleading to give the impression that there is a fixed total of jobless people, and a fixed number of available jobs. Both sets of figures are in a constant state of flux. About a quarter of a million people join the claimant count each month and a slightly larger number leave it to find work. New vacancies are constantly coming on stream, and are regularly being filled.

Nonetheless, there is also a permanent element to both the unemployment and vacancy figures. I know of a business in an area of relatively high unemployment that, faced with rising demand, decided to put on a new shift. The wages were pretty good and the local job centre advised the company that there were plenty of unemployed, male, local candidates in need of full-time jobs. They did not, however, materialise, despite extensive advertising. The firm instead had to employ married women as part-timers.

The normal explanation for this kind of thing is that it must reflect the extent of the black economy. This is a source of official concern, hence Gordon Browns decision last year to commission Lord Grabiner QC to investigate it. But it is not realistic to expect the black economy to release an army of skilled and motivated people, ready and willing to take on mainstream, taxed employment.

Nor is it the case that the only jobs available are in areas where unemployed people do not live. The chancellor, indeed, is fond of pointing out the extent of job vacancies even in the high-unemployment Northeast. The spread of vacancies, indeed, is remarkably even between regions.

So what is the problem? The Government has already discovered, under the New Deal, that there is a significant hard core of unemployed people, notably in the 18-24 target group, who lack motivation, reliability and the basic social skills associated with working regularly. Multinationals building plants in countries where there is no tradition of paid industrial employment have long been accustomed to the lengthy and frustrating learning period where workers are taught about the need to turn up at the same time each day - and also to remember to turn up. …

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