Initial Operational/Locational Set-Up
All Stage 1 services, if successful, expand into a wider range of walk-in, satellite, online, and co-located centers (with other services) in later stages. The first-stage decisions focus on how to deliver core services and where a service should be set up for a modern, depoliticized image with easy access for job seekers and employers.
Easy access for job seekers (close to public markets, other services) is typically not the same as easy access for employers (within their associations, at job fairs, through specialized contacts). If there are defined mechanisms to facilitate employer listings, then walk-in locations should really be oriented to public access. For public employment services in developing countries, one of the key fatal mistakes is to locate a service in an aging Ministry of Labor building (as they are owned by the government), particularly in the same building as the Ministry of Labor regulatory office. Nothing will discourage an employer from listing jobs more than the thought that it might prompt an inspector to visit their premises (the two functions need to be kept separate). In Panama City, the desks for the labor inspection service and the employment service were literally on two sides of the same large office until a major investment to expand the National Employment Service separated the two functions, with the result that job listings dramatically increased. Using isolated but less costly public ministry buildings may mean high transportation costs for the public to use the service - as happens, for example, with the cost of the bus service to reach the main National Employment Service office in Nassau, the Bahamas.3
Developing countries face inevitable fiscal constraints in leasing or buying facilities in populated areas, so a typical trade-off has been to locate administrative and central office staff in less accessible areas and use shared facilities (other Ministries, or the private sector) for satellite locations. Overall, little systematic study has been done to assist developing countries to analyze the factors involved in deciding how many offices to set up, where, when in the sequence of staged development, or the level of investment needed, particularly in an age of technology when online services can be considered an alternative to physical walk-in facilities. A summary of experience from developing countries in Stage 1 includes:
- • Countries often locate “walk-in” services not by where traffic flows most normally, but where public agencies already own facilities. Countries should consider alternatives, including rental and shared spaces with other ministries if Ministry Offices are difficult to get to.
- • At all costs countries should avoid locating walk-in employment centers in the same space as the Ministry of Labor’s regulatory offices.
- • There may be a tendency to overinvest in physical facilities that may be difficult to maintain over time. Better to identify the first set of centers in urban areas and complement this investment with rented facilities in satellite locations to await the growth of demand over time.
- • Stage 1 countries should invest in a locational study/analysis before large investments in walk-in centers, taking into account maximizing convenience for job seekers and employers (e.g. located in city centers, shopping areas, near or within Chambers of Commerce, with easy access to public transportation) for urban areas first, and consider a more flexible approach to rural areas (e.g. mobile vans, shared facilities with local governments or the private sector). After well-established urban centers, the state employment service of Jalisco, on Mexico’s west coast, invested in a mobile van which sets up shop in the main squares of more isolated communities on specific days of the week.