ILO launches first global report on public employment services and active labour market policies for transitions

Public employment services have a central role in responding to crises and fostering recovery to ensure efficient and well-functioning labour markets. This Q&A provides details from the first global report by the ILO on public employment services, shedding light on the latest developments and trends of employment services and active labour market policies.

News | 11 December 2023
Q: What is the main focus of this global report, and for whom is it intended?
In the context of worldwide labour markets emerging from the COVID-19 crisis to an environment of geopolitical instability and rapid change, this global report has a dual focus: 1) to highlight trends and developments in the organization, structure, and governance of public employment services (PES) and active labour market policies (ALMPs), and 2) to examine the design of their service offers and delivery mechanisms.

The report is intended for PES policymakers and practitioners, offering insights from international experiences to inform their policy decisions; and for academia and researchers, as a contribution to cutting edge knowledge on the subject.

Q: What are some of the significant findings emerging in this publication, and how can policymakers and practitioners involved in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of employment services and labour market policies use them?
The report confirmed what we already knew from our administrative records: that employment services and ALMPs play a substantial role not only in mitigating crises and recessions, but also in recovery strategies. More interestingly, this is not exclusive to advanced countries—developing and emerging countries are catching up, using PES and ALMPs as part of their employment promotion strategies.

Broadly, the report’s findings are condensed along three themes. First, PES are more critical than ever to ensure inclusiveness in the labour market, focusing on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Beyond those accounted for in unemployment and underemployment statistics, PES need to work on activating the inactive, potential clientele.

Second, there’s been developments in design, implementation of service offers (such as an integrated and customised package of job search assistance, ALMPs and social assistance), and modernization of PES in response to megatrends and crises. These are key for a PES to remain agile and relevant, and to serve its more demanding clients (such as youth and long-term unemployed individuals requiring more costly and time-consuming personalised services) more effectively.

Finally, there are positive trends in the delivery channels of PES and their business models: multi-channelling strategies that allow a PES to reach all segments of its clients; and partnerships with other public, private and third sector organizations to design and deliver services.

Q. How exactly does this publication help contribute to the development of more effective, inclusive and resilient public employment services?
This report provides concrete examples of PES organization, and its service offer design and delivery. It further shows the importance of collaboration and coordination of different actors on the labour market, and the importance of designing ALMPs in innovative and targeted ways—increasing the connection to other parts of governmental support and to other actors on the labour market.

PES at all levels can use the findings of this research as a guide to increase their flexibility while ensuring sustainability and resilience—to learn how to respond proactively to changes in the labour market, rather than reactively.   

Q: What are some of the report’s recommendations?
  • A PES needs a clear mandate laid down in the country’s legal and policy frameworks, with sufficient flexibility to respond to challenges.
  • Ensure that changes to PES governance, organizational structure and performance management reflect needs and policy priorities.
  • Strengthen capacity of PES to ensure that they are effective and able to modernize.
  • Pursue the customized digitalization of PES to increase their capacity, service quality and resilience in times of crisis. However, as digitalization is an enabler and not a panacea, care should be taken to ensure that no one is left behind due to digital divide.
  • Embrace a holistic approach to supporting clients—looking beyond the labour market to address further barriers, be they skills-related or social.
  • Leverage PES to support workers and enterprises in the green, digital and care economies.
Q: Will there be a follow up to this global report?
Yes, the plan is to issue a second part of the report on one or two topics in the first year of the 2024-25 biennium. Furthermore, the findings of the report will be used to design technical advisory services for ILO Member States.