Transforming Australia’s Public Employment Service: The Job Network 1998-2003

Alexandra Copley (2009). Transforming Australia’s Public Employment Service: The Job Network 1998-2003 PhD Thesis, School of Political Science & International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Alexandra Copley
Thesis Title Transforming Australia’s Public Employment Service: The Job Network 1998-2003
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science & International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Gillian Whitehouse
Professor Paul Boreham
Total pages 270
Total black and white pages 270
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary Public employment services are provided in all developed economies, justified on the basis of a public interest in efficient, effective operation of national labour markets. Although such countries adopt different approaches to delivering these services each offers what I refer to as ‘the three essential roles of a public employment service’. These are labour exchange services, providing job brokerage to labour market participants to enhance the efficiency of the labour market; an equity role, offering assistance to disadvantaged jobseekers to improve their prospects of employment; and a ‘compliance monitoring role’ which contributes to maintaining the integrity of the welfare system by detecting welfare abuse. Informed by a body of research on policies and practices in the OECD I construct a model of a notional public employment service incorporating these three essential roles that I call ‘an OECD model’. The Job Network, an early policy reform of a newly-elected Coalition government, appeared to replicate ‘the OECD model’, insofar as it performed brokerage, offered equity measures and conducted invigilation of welfare compliance. However, it differed from its predecessor, the CES, in two significant respects. First it was created by the bureaucracy as a new ‘market’ in which all employment services were purchased through a competitive tending process from private sector providers; in this, it was unique in the OECD. Second, rather than offering prescribed employment programs and services designed by public officials, private providers were free to determine the needs of clients (within broadly-defined service categories) and devise their own strategies to achieve contractually-defined ‘outcomes’ for which they would be paid. Services were focused particularly on disadvantaged jobseekers who were expected to receive personalised assistance tailored to overcome their complex or multiple barriers to employment. The purpose of my thesis is to discover whether the Job Network (in the period from its inception to the end of the second contract) was an OECD model, by which I mean whether its three roles were conceptualised, constructed and delivered in ways that enabled them to perform the same functions as the three essential roles of the OECD model. I see this question as involving two distinct, but interrelated issues. First, I am concerned to discover whether the three roles of the Job Network share the objectives and priorities of their counterparts in the OECD model, positing that these will shape the design of services. Second, informed by a body of literature which draws attention to a range of issues emerging from privatisation of public services, I consider the impacts that private delivery had on the design and implementation of its services. iv I approach this task from a qualitative perspective to explore assumptions and priorities underpinning the political construction of the issues deemed to require policy intervention and the responses to these as reflected in the design and implementation of services, noting the effects of practices on service recipients. I argue that, together, these are the determinants of the Job Network’s policy objectives and capacities. I take as my data the political discourse, bureaucratic texts, interview materials and texts of service recipients that I have gathered to investigate, in turn, each of the three roles of the Job Network using tools and techniques from the broader field of discourse analysis, selecting those most appropriate to the nature of the data. My analysis concludes that the Job Network’s three roles do not reflect those of the OECD model, first because they are predicated on different policy objectives and second, because privatisation of service delivery affected the design of its services and the priorities of service providers in ways that undermined its capacity to perform the ‘essential roles’. The evidence suggests that ideological-based assumptions and preferences of a conservative government steered the Job Network towards prioritising its role in compliance monitoring, positioning it as a tool of welfare reform rather delivering interventions to enhance efficiency or equity in the labour market such as those predicated of the OECD model.
Keyword job network, public employment services, brokerage, disadvantaged jobseekers, compliance monitoring

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Created: Fri, 30 Jul 2010, 13:30:00 EST by Mrs Alexandra Copley on behalf of Library - Information Access Service