CWS 3.0: May 14, 2014

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Use of Younger Temps Falls at UK Agencies; Demand Up for Older Workers

Findings from the Comensura Government Index (GI), a provider of neutral vendor managed services, show that local government and other public bodies across the U.K. continue to offer significant temporary employment opportunities to young people, with 34 percent of all workers under the age of 34.

However, the index also showed the use of younger temporary workers was declining. Temporaries aged between 16 and 24 and between 25 and 34 declined by 7.1 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, in 2013/14 compared with the previous year. Those under the age of 34 tend to work in light industrial, office/admin/clerical, and social care roles. Only the light industrial sector increased usage year-over-year, by 3 percent. Under 34s working in office/admin/clerical and social care roles experienced year-over-year declines of 3.2 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

The trend toward the use of older workers has been a consistent theme in previous issues of the Comensura GI and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of it reversing. In 2013/14, temporary workers in all age groups above age 34 increased, most notably in the 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65 and over age ranges, which increased year-over-year by 9.3 percent, 8 percent, and 12.1 percent, respectively.

Local governments appear to be shifting their temporary recruitment focus as they recruit for more skilled positions and are asked to do more with less due to continued budget cuts in the sector. Therefore, when looking to recruit into temporary labor roles, they are tending to hire workers with greater experience and proven capability. Investing in younger, less experienced workers means more time, effort and training, which continue to be under extreme scrutiny for local government.

“Variation in the age of workers speaks volumes as to the changing mix of temporary labor,” says Jamie Horton, managing director at Comensura. “Hiring managers are turning to more experienced temporary workers to minimize impact on front line services as they can’t always afford the extra cost and time associated with hiring younger employees.”

The latest Comensura GI also revealed that during the April 2013 to March 2014 fiscal year, temporary labor usage in local government and other public bodies increased by 2.7 percent. This suggests that local government is continuing to use temporary labor to provide greater workforce flexibility in delivering front-line services.

In line with the overall national increase in temporary worker full-time equivalent (FTE), eight of the 13 job classes reporting in the Comensura GI were positively affected. The year-over-year increase in temporary labor implies a continued reliance on temporary workers in the public sector. This could be attributed to continued budget pressures, permanent recruitment freezes, and challenges filling vacancies.

The Comensura GI reported a consistent shift in the type of temporary worker used by local government with a trend towards highly skilled and professional white collar roles. While temporary workers in finance roles declined in 2013/14, all other professional white collar roles increased.

The number of temporary workers in IT roles increased by 11.2 percent and professional white collar roles increased by 10.5 percent. The figures suggest that local authorities and other public bodies are increasingly broadening the scope of temporary work to provide the skills, expertise, and experience that may not exist from within the permanent workforce.

“The growth in professional white collar temporary workers, especially in information technology, is indicative of a rapidly changing public sector, which needs to access specialist skills and expertise on a short-term or project basis,” Horton concluded. “As the economy continues to improve, we could see a talent tug of war between the private and public sector for highly specialist temporary and contractor labor.”

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