Committee Reports::Report - Proposal to Establish a Centralised State Agency for Persons Registering for Employment or Training::31 May, 1984::Appendix


Extract from 1984 OECD Report (Chapter VI)

“Improving Youth Employment Opportunities Policies for Ireland”

Characteristics and Problems of Irish Manpower Services and Special Employment Programmes

The industrial development imperative described in Chapter IV implies that IDA and ANCO will view the labour market mainly from a demand perspective. If the economic development of Ireland primarily depends upon its ability to attract or create new industries, it is important that new industrial jobs are filled as quickly as possibl with suitable and skilled manpower. If the requisite skills should be unavailable in the labour market, it is important that the most suitable. (in terms of sex, age, educational achievement, aptitude and motivation) job seekers should be trained for available jobs by industry itself, or for industry by ANCO. From an industrial development point of view, in either case it would be inefficient or even counter-productive to consider supply-oriented strategies which would discriminate in favour of those “problem groups” in the labour market which are hardest hit by unemployment and least likely to find jobs on their own.

While a demand perspective seems inevitable for IDA, and plausible for AnCO because of their clear industrial development mandates, the same orientation appears more problematical in the case of the National Manpower Service (NMS) which ostensibly should be equally concerned with both the demand and the supply sides of the labour market. The reason for the apparent imbalance of perspectives seems to be primarily historical. Before 1971, the placement function was performed by labour exchanges that were also charged with the administration of unemployment compensation which seems to have entirely dominated the activities as well as the public image of these exchanges. Therefore, when NMS was established as a separate institution, it was determined to avoid any further association of the “dole image” with its new, highly professionalised placement services. In this, NMS seems to have been remarkably successful. NMS placement officers are able to spend about half of their time in the field, exploring and assessing the current and future manpower needs of employers, and they are equally concerned with determining and evaluating the aptitudes and employment interests of registered job seekers. Compared to the conflicting pressures experienced by labour administrators in other countries. e.g. Germany, which have not separated placement functions from the administration of the unemployment insurance system, these are enviable conditions which surely contribute to the high professional reputation which NMS placement services seem to enjoy in Ireland. It is our impression, that in its single-minded pursuit of the “optimal match” between an existing vacancy and the best available job seeker, NMS is bending over backwards to avoid being tainted not only with a “dole image” but also with any explicit concern with the problem of unemployment as such.

In seeking to protect their image it has become important to NMS that their clientele should be composed only of persons who are genuinely interested in finding a job. Accordingly, job seekers have to be independently registered with NMS (regardless of whether they are presently employed or unemployed). There is no automatic cross-registration between the “Live Register” of persons entitled to unemployment benefits or unemployment assistance. In fact, we were told that only about half of the unemployed are also registered as job seekers with NMS. We also understand that automatic cross-registration, which is presently under study, is not favoured by NMS which expects that the additional work load would far exceed present staff capacities. While the overriding concern with the quality of the placement function is certainly plausible and even commendable, it necessarily leads to a strong demand orientation on the part of NMS when the success of this placement function is primarily limited by the scarcity of labour demand. Thus, paradoxically, the priority of the placement function will reduce concern for the problem groups in the labour market whenever unemployment increases and employment opportunities are further reduced. As a matter of fact, NMS believe that it would be counterproductive for them to violate the optimal match rule by giving preference to unemployed job seekers over applicants who are presently employed.

The orientation of NMS towards the demand side of the labour market must also limit its institutional sympathy for government programmes intended to improve the employment opportunities of the unemployed or, more specifically, of the “hard-core” unemployed with school records, job histories or personality traits that appear unattractive to potential employers. We suspect that this lack of sympathy has affected the operation of the “Employment Incentive Scheme”, implemented by NMS, which offers wage subsidies for the additional employment of unemployed workers or first-time job seekers. A careful evaluation of its predecessor, the “Premium Employment Programme”, by O’Donnell and Walsh (1) found that the impact of the programme on aggregate employment was relatively small. This is not surprising in view of the fact that a relatively small wage subsidy could hardly induce firms to expand their operations over and above existing plans. Still, wage subsidies might be able to influence hiring criteria to the advantage of job seekers who are within the target group designated by the programme. However, once again, only a relatively small percentage of the sample of firms in the survey suggested that because of the programme they had “hired from the unemployed” which (presumably) they would not otherwise have done. The reasons for this finding are not explored in depth by O’Donnell and Walsh.

On the basis of our own informal discussions we suspect that, in addition to the negative view which employers tend to take of people who have been on the Live Register for any length of time, the attitudes of NMS towards the programme may also be part of the explanation. According to NMS, placement officers would rather not use the Employment Incentive Scheme as a “selling argument” in placement discussions with employers in order to protect the integrity of the matching process. Only after a match had been struck on “objective” grounds would they inform the employer (if he was not aware of it all along) of the availability of the subisdy. If this should be generally true, it would be no surprise at all to find that the Employment Incentive Scheme mainly produces “windfalls” in the technical sense of subsidising the hiring of persons who would have been hired even in the absence of a subsidy.

Given the overall institutional priorities of NMS, it is perhaps no surprise that during the last recession when the government decided to initiate a series of programmes intended to alleviate youth unemployment, NMS was not automatically considered to be the “natural” implementation agency. In fact, of the four direct job creation programmes targeted mainly at unemployed youth, only one - the Work Experience Programme (WEP) - is primarily administered by NMS. The Community Youth Training Programme (CYTP) is operated by ANCO, the Environmental Improvement Schemes Programme (EISP) by the Department of the Environment in collaboration with local authorities, and the Temporary Grants Scheme for Youth Employment (TYE) is administered directly by the Department of Education.

All four programmes were evaluated in an EEC study in 1980 (2) and the Work Experience Programme was evaluated again and in grater depth in 1981 by the Department of Finance (3). The review team has profited much from these competent evaluation studies, and we have no direct observations of our own to offer which would add to, or correct, their findings. Tables 21 and 22 show the numbers participating on these schemes and expenditures over the past four years.


Youth Employment Schemes - Expenditure Rates


(Ir £ millions)







Environmental improvement schemes










Temporary grants scheme for youth employment





Work experience programme





Community youth training programme











Youth Employment Schemes Participation Rates*


Number of participants






Environmental improvement schemes










Temporary grants scheme for youth employment





Work experience programme





Community Youth training programme





From these studies, it appears that WEP has served by far the largest number of participants and that it is the only programme which operates directly in the private sector of the economy. Further, the evaluations indicate that it has an excellent record of placing participants in permanent jobs, often with employers who provided the work experience. It also seems to be the only programme in which the majority of participants are young women. On the other hand, most participants in WEP seem to be recent school leavers with good educational records who could not be considered hard to employ for the type of office and service jobs to which they are primarily directed through WEP. Thus, the overall demand orientation of NMS may also have influenced the operation of WEP in favour of particularly attractive matches from the point of view of employers. This might explain, in part, the highly favourable placement record of WEP, but it would by the same token reduce the value of the programme for the hard-to-employ among young job seekers.

WEP provides some element of training because of the requirement, monitored by NMS, that participants should eb rotated around at least four different activities during their work experience period. Training, howevever, is the explicit goal of AnCO’s Community Youth Training Programme. The CYTP is not undertaken in AnCO’s regular training centres, whose “adult courses” are directly related to the manpower needs of industry. Instead, the CYTP is run as a separate operation with training opportunities provided through work on projects sponsored by local community associations which are intended to contribute to the improvement of community amenities. Given the widely acclaimed success of ANCO’s regular industrial training courses, the operational separation of CYTP seems puzzling at first. However, it begins to make sense if one remembers AnCO’s determination to train largely for existing and short-term employment opportunities, the limited capacity of its training facilities, and the long waiting lists of applicants who have passed ANCO’s aptitude tests. Under such conditions, it seems reasonable that ANCO would hesitate to open up its regular facilities to CYTP’s target group of unskilled job seekers who are “low achievers in need of career direction and elementary basic training”.

Actual projects under CYTP usually involve the construction of buildings and other physical facilities which provide an opportunity for on-the-job training in a variety of building trades. The quality of training seems to depend primarily upon the ability and motivation of the foreman, who is also hired from project funds by the local sponsor. While data on the actual placement of participants seem to be lacking, the authors of the CEC evaluation study were quite favourably impressed with the overall quality of CYTP training, citing as one measure of success the graduation of CYTP trainees onto normal ANCO courses. In our view, this emphasizes again the basic difficulty which a strongly demand oriented (and, thus, highly quality conscious) institution like ANCO experiences when asked to implement a training programme which is primarily supply oriented and targeted toward disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Nevertheless, while NMS and ANCO are perhaps not putting their very best efforts into targeted programmes, it is a credit to their professional competence in the manpower field that WEP and CYTP are evaluated to be significantly more effective in improving the employment opportunities of participants than other youth programmes.

Of the other youth programmes, the Environmental Improvement Scheme is financed and supervised by the Department of the Environment, while the Temporary Grants Scheme for Youth Employment is administered by the Department of Education. Both, however, seem to depend entirely upon local initiatives proposing suitable projects, coming in the case of EIS from local authorities, and in the case of TYE from sports, youth and community organisations. In either caee, the government department responsible for the programme is not primarily concerned with the manpower policy aspect of individual projects - neither with their targeting toward specific problem groups in the labour market, nor with the overall or local demand for the skills that participants might be able to pick up in a project. As a consequence, projects tend to be mainly of the “pick and shovel” variety with extremely low skill requirements, and they tend to attract primarily unqualified young males who are physically fit and reasonably motivated. While EIS does seem to offer some placement opportunities for participants when local authorities have to replace manual labourers, TYE does not seem to provide any systematic placement opportunities

At any rate, the involvement of NMS (which is in theory supposed to provide recruitment as well as placement services for both programmes) seems to be insufficient. To the extent, however, that the Irish labour market still seems to provide employment opportunities for able bodied and willing unskilled manual workers, the graduates of both programmes are likely to have reasonably good employment prospects.

In the discussions we had in Ireland, as well as in the evaluation report, the lack of coordination among the several job creation programmes has been strongly emphasized. The last government decided to establish a Youth Employment Agency for just that purpose, and its Director was recently appointed. While we are sceptical of the ubiquitous demand for more coordination in the abstract, and while we appreciate the real benefits which EIS and TYE derive from the more intimate relationship between specialised government departments and local sponsoring organisations, we find two serious problems resulting from the present pattern of entirely separate activities.

i)First, the fact that widely differing conditions apply in programmes pursuing essentially similar objectives seems to create real difficulties for some of the programmes. This is a particular problem for WEP which can only offer weekly allowances of Ir £20 to participants, while EISP and TYE can offer almost twice that amount and indeed in some cases over three times that amount. As a consequence, when there is some competition for attractive participants, WEP tends to lose out. This may partly explain its concentration upon young women (who are practically excluded from the other programmes) and its low penetration in the industrial field (where young persons with acceptable qualifications could find much higher paying jobs as unskilled workers). We therefore feel that a certain standardisation of conditions could probably improve the effectiveness of those programmes which are considered to be most useful.

ii)Second, the pluralism of programmes seems to have the unfortunate consequence that no single agency is responsible for looking at the overall pattern of activities in the light of manpower policy needs. Given the fragmentation of responsibilities, each of the implementing agencies is free to concentrate upon what it can do best, and to minimise inconveniences for its overall operations. As a consequence, the regional distribution of funds seems to be much more governed by the availability and the interest of sponsoring organisations than by the distribution of youth unemployment. Similarly, employment or training opportunities are offered to those youngsters whose qualifications and motivations are most attractive for the particular programme or project, rather than to those groups who would otherwise have the greatest difficulty in finding regular employment. Finally it seems that employment or training projects are often chosen more because of the attractiveness of their “product” for sponsoring agencies than for their contribution to improving the employment opportunities of participants. All this is entirely unsurprising in a situation where each of four agencies is responsible only for the success and the smooth operation of its own activities, and where none of them is responsible for youth unemployment.

The Youth Employment Agency will be financed from a 1 per cent levy on payrolls, to be collected by the Department of Finance and paid over as a fixed sum. It would be helpful, in our view, for the Department of Finance to show in its accounts the exact sum collected and the exact sum remitted to the Youth Employment Agency. The sum available is reckoned to be £IR43 million in 1982, and £IR60 million in a full year, to which another £IR20 to £IR30 millions will be added through complementary contributions from the European Social Fund. Current expenditure on the four existing youth employment programmes is estimated at £IR34 millions a year, which leaves considerable scope for new programmes and expansion of existing programmes by the YEA. The YEA will operate through the NMS, which will be responsible to it for youth employment. We welcome the inclusion in the new Agency’s terms of reference of the requirement to coordinate and integrate the existing schemes to ensure there is no duplication. The YEA will also be able to monitor and set general standards for eligibility, allowance etc. for these schemes from 1983/84, and can also determine the duration of participation. We would like to see the implementation of the existing programmes integrated at local or regional level, through the NMS. Available funds could be used with maximum effect to provide opportunities for those groups least likely to find jobs on their own.

Integrated implementation would not necessarily destroy the separate identity of existing programmes, nor their funding through separate departments. But it would imply that all funds should be channelled through a single implementating agency at the local or regional level. This agency would then be responsible for the acquisition of subsidised employment or training opportunities from private firms, local authorities and community agencies within the terms of each separate programme, but also with a view to maximising the impact of all activities upon youth unemployment in the region.

In our view, it seems obvious that NMS regional offices reporting to the YEA would be best placed to achieve the goal of integrated implementation. We realise that, in the past, NMS’ contribution to the recruitment and placement functions of CYTP, EIS and TYE has been unimpressive or non-existent, and that WEP has been only a qualified success in terms of overall manpower policy priorities. In consequence, we are not merely suggesting that certain administrative functions should be attached to NMS in its present form; what would be needed is a broadening of the functions of NMS, and of its own institutional perspectives, so as to include responsibility to the YEA for the overall problem of youth unemployment and for managing programmes intended to improve youth employment opportunities. Of course, this also would require a substantial expansion of NMS staff capacity, but this seems to us a well placed investment as the high professional quality of present NMS activities would provide, in our view, a favourable environment in which these new functions could develop much better than if the present pattern of pluralistic implementation were to continue.

The Youth Employment Agency has a special remit to extend programmes with particular emphasis on disadvantaged young people, and it can work with voluntary organisations to provide employment opportunities. We hope it will also work closely with the schools and colleges. In this context, the absence of any representative of Irish voluntary organisation or of teachers’ organisations among the board of directors is noted.

We note that ANCO, which does such a good job of monitoring training in outside firms, is not itself subject to monitoring or assessment of the quality of its training courses. We believe a system of external assessment would be useful, and that the assessors could help ANCO by monitoring the quality of training done in ANCO centres. One policy objective should be the encouragement of girls into new occupations. An additional subsidy might be paid for the training of girls in the early years of establishing equal opportunities for them, as has been done in Germany. Further, Ireland might also mount special familiarisation courses for girls interested in non-traditional careers, as the Engineering Industry Training Board has successfully done for senior secondary school girls in Britain.

Irish labour market policy, in general, is more demand-oriented than appears justified by existing and foreseeable high levels of unemployment. Not only ANCO training, but also the placement efforts of the National Manpower Service are explicitly aimed at selecting the most attractive candidates for available job opportunities. Seen from the demand side of the economy, this is a most efficient mode of operation. But it also means that manpower services, unlike grants for plant and equipment, are not aimed particularly at those regions where unemployment is highest, nor at those groups in the labour force who are most likely to be affected by long-term unemployment. The National Manpower Service does not even automatically list as job seekers those who are entered on the “Live Register” as being unemployed. Statistics from the Live Register of unemployment consistently understate the problem, because of the eligibility conditions, and are therefore a misleading indicator of the unemployment position. We would support the introduction of an annual sample survey. The National Manpower Service is much better placed than other institutions (such as the Department of Education or the Department of Agriculture) to develop effective and efficiently-operating programmes aimed specifically at improving the employment opportunities for problem areas and problem groups within the labour market. We welcome the co-ordination of these programmes by the new Youth Employment Agency, and propose that the current disparate levels of allowances and of costs per job created be examined with a view to harminising them.

Finally, we suggest that the mandate of the National Manpower Service should be broadened so as to include a wider range of “active manpower policy” measures. Among these measures, those aimed specifically at the population of “disadvantaged” youth should receive particular attention.

1. R. O’Donnell and B. Walsh, Survey of the Premium Employment Programme, Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, June, 1978.

2. T.L. Rees with K. Doogan, D. Redmark and P. Stokes, Study of Schemes of Direct Job Creation in the Republic of Ireland, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 1980.

3. M. Gallagher, Evaluation of the Work Experience Programme, Analysis Section, Department of Finance, Dublin, May, 1981.

* Participation rate = No. of new entrants plus those already participating at the beginning of the year.

** Although records are not kept in the form of the participation rate used elsewhere, some 1,556 participants are recorded as the maximum number at any one time.