Building Competent Human Resources and a Depoliticized Foundation

The major public and private players creating a new core employment service face an ironic challenge - to avoid the politicized and noncompetency-based hiring of the service’s director and new staff - the very type of employment hiring it is trying to overcome in the economy! While political and business contacts and credibility are particularly important for the Center’s Director, I have seen politicized hiring down to the job counselors and the administrative staff, all of whom are vulnerable to losing their jobs when a political or business leadership changes. This has been the biggest untold reason for the institutional failure of Stage 1 core employment services that I have seen. Hiring people with private sector experience, open competition for key posts, and regular training of staff can be critical in creating a depoliticized foundation for a Stage 1 service.

Legal/Regulatory Obstacles

In just a handful of developing countries, the creation of partnerships with private and non-profit organizations to reconfigure and relaunch a new form of Stage 1 core employment service may meet with legal prohibitions that must be addressed. The principal legal prohibitions are against for- profit firms operating and against sub-contracting by public entities. As well, Ministries of Labor charged with regulating private and non-profit firms and bureaucratic red tape have led to such partnerships being strangled out of business. There are unscrupulous firms taking advantage of workers which require regulation and oversight, but it can well be that the firms who need it most are not the ones being regulated! In Stage 1, the issue to be confronted is whether there are laws or regulations which will prohibit the operation of new institutional relationships beyond a public employment service monopoly.

Many (but not all) of these laws can trace their origins to an old International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention which prohibited private firms from charging for their services to workers. Eastern European and socialist countries (e.g. Cuba) had greater prohibitions on private sector activity of a more fundamental origin. The ILO has modernized greatly its approach to public-private partnerships in employment services, as evidenced from its newer Convention 197 that permits and regulates private employment agencies. Slowly countries have been either ignoring or removing legal prohibitions which mirrored these conventions, but this is not the case everywhere. Private employment agencies are still legally prohibited in Tunisia, for example.

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