Labor Economics: Theory, Institutions, and Public Policy

By Ray Marshall; Vernon M. Briggs Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18
Human Resource Development Policy

One of the most significant developments in labor economics in the past two decades has been the recognition of the importance of human resource development to national economic and personal development. During the 1960s, the term manpower policy came into being. It was used to define the new set of labor market policies designed to develop the employment potential of the nation's human resources. As noted in Chapter 13, in Western Europe -- especially Sweden -- such policy initiatives had already become an established component of economic policy. The European nations referred to these endeavors as "active labor-market policies." By the 1970s, the term manpower itself had been replaced (it was felt to be a sexist term) by employment and training policies or human resource policies. Although the exact descriptive phrase is not important, the concept itself is a major step forward in the development of a comprehensive economic policy.

Human resource policy represents an attempt to influence the quality of the supply of labor. It is an amorphous term that embraces a wide range of activities. Although human resource services existed in one form or another before the 1960s, no previous attempt had been made to link the various efforts into a comprehensive system. Moreover, a vital feature of post-1960s human resource policy has been its focus on the economically disadvantaged, who too often had not participated in programs to enhance their employability. To understand the present status of human resource policy, it is necessary to review briefly its development and to compare the policies of the United States with those of Western Europe.


THE EMERGENCE OF HUMAN RESOURCE POLICY

There are numerous isolated examples of human resource policies in early U.S. history. The nation's virtually unrestricted immigration policy before 1924 was a major source of both the quantity of workers and the quality of skills. Another example was the Morrill Act of 1862, which created the land grant universities. These schools were designed primarily to meet practical needs -- especially in agriculture and engineering.

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