Activating Employers in Active Labour Market Policies

This blog is based on an article published in Social Policy and Society.  You can access the full article here.

Why do some employers participate in the implementation of active labour market policies (ALMPs), whilst others do not? How do they participate and what benefits do they derive from their participation?

We know too little about these questions, since there is a general lack of systematic research on the role of employers – i.e. the demand-side of the labour market – in the implementation of ALMPs. Instead policy-makers and researchers tend to focus on the supply-side, i.e. the activation of unemployed jobseekers.

But to be successful, ALMPs necessitate active participation of employers in recruiting unemployed jobseekers and in the implementation of activation programmes. Evidence suggests that activation – or welfare-to-work programmes – implemented by local employers are more effective than public programmes (e.g. wage subsidy programmes, work experience programmes, internships).

There is a small but growing academic literature on the attitudes, behaviour and classification of employers in ALMPs. My contribution is to distinguish between four different types of employers and suggest how outreach activities by jobcentres and employment services can become more effective by understanding the attitudes and behaviour of different types of employers.

Typology of employers

The existing research on the engagement of employers in ALMP is either (1) descriptions of different categories of employers or (2) analysis of the motives for employers to participate in AMLPs. My contribution is mainly in the first category by categorizing the behaviour and attitudes of four different types of employers.

At a very basic level, employers can have either positive or negative attitudes towards ALMPs and decide to participate or not participate in ALMPs. There are by implication four possible outcomes: (1) The committed employer which has positive attitudes and participates in ALMPs, (2) The dismissive employer which has negative attitudes and do not participate in ALMPs, (3) the sceptical employer which has negative attitudes (or experiences) but (currently) participates in ALMPs and (4) the passive employer which has positive attitudes but does not (currently) participate. Previous research has tended to focus on the committed or dismissive employers and overlooked the sceptical and passive employers.

There are numerous opportunities for empirical application of this typology. It can be used to compare employer engagement in different countries, sectors, and time periods. It is important for policy-makers and local administrators of employment services to understand variations in the attitudes and behaviour of local employers if they want to implement effective demand-side policies. It is for instance probably not worthwhile to try to convince dismissive employers to participate in ALMPs. Resources are better used on activating passive employers and retaining the participation of sceptical employers.

The Danish case

I have tested the applicability of the typology with data on employers’ engagement in Danish ALMPs. Previous research indicate that Danish employers are relatively highly and deeply engaged in ALMPs compared to employers in for instance the UK and Germany. I therefore expected to find a high proportion of committed employers (positive attitudes and active participation in ALMPs), but to my surprise found that the majority of Danish employers can be characterized as either dismissive or passive employers. Those that do participate prefer to participate in (subsidized) activation programmes rather than in recruiting (unsubsidized) unemployed jobseekers. In conclusion, there is considerable scope for improving the attitudes and increasing the participation of employers in ALMPs, even in Denmark, which is considered as one of the frontrunners in the implementation of ALMPs.

In future research we will test the typology further by applying it on specific target groups in employment services (for instance persons with disabilities and refugees) and we encourage colleagues and decision makers to pay more attention on the important role of employers in the implementation of ALMPs.

About the author

Thomas Bredgaard is Professor (MSO) at Aalborg University, Denmark.


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