Examination of Witness (Questions 20-31)|
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
20. Okay. What appears to be the effect of demand
and supply side measures that result in jobs growth in areas that
currently have low employment rates in some of these states where,
for example, there is a problem with low employment growth?
(Ms Rosewell) The things that seem to work best are
the small scale things which overcome some of these network problems
that I have been talking about. You have to match the opportunity
to the expectation in a way and even if that means that the opportunity
looks less good than we might like in an ideal world, nonetheless
if that matches more the expectations that people feel that they
can meet, I think it is more likely to be successful than if you
come along with something which is all singing and all dancing
but people do not really believe in. Although it seems slightly
weird maybe we have to not lower standards but it is matching
expectations of success in order to make something work which
you can build on then, I am not sure you can leapfrog the first
stages, I think that is really what I am saying.
21. It is a case of thinking globally and acting
locally I suppose is your philosophy.
(Ms Rosewell) Oh dear, I suppose it is.
Chairman: I am interested in what you are saying
about networks because it must be hard, must it not, for central
Government to get a global policy which to a certain extent has
to be one size fits all. It is dealing with very different profiles
of employment and unemployment rates in different geographical
locations. There is some evidence that the way that we capture
these through travel to work statistics is not really accurate.
How does central Government best promote this network of which
you talk? I am absolutely sure you are right that the best way
if we had fairy wands as politicians would be if we could create
effective networks. A lot of these communities where the really
entrenched problems of unemployment lie are deprived and disadvantaged
in so many different ways that people defend their own space and
do not venture past their own front doors these days unless they
have cause to do so. If you were the Minister for Employment how
would you try and promote exactly that framework of informal networking
that is potentially so successful at getting people into employment
opportunities working from an office in Whitehall?
22. Can I just come in on that, Chair? Government
has set up the local strategic partnerships, how can they get
involved in that sort of networking that you are talking about
because on the one hand there is a danger that it would be the
same people who have spoken to each other in the past, representatives
of the local authority and the great and the good in an area.
How can they be better used to actually get down to the level
you are talking about and help facilitate that networking?
(Ms Rosewell) I think less is more. In other words,
you cannot do all of it from outside. You have the usual suspects
who come in and want to make it different but unless you can generate
the bottom up side of it as well, you are ending up again delivering
programmes to people rather than delivering programmes for people,
perhaps that is the connection. I have no good way of doing this
but I think it means you have to find a connection into the individuals
who have enough impetus that they can begin to create the on-the-ground
networks which are the only ways that this will happen. There
are examples where this has worked, and I am thinking not so much
in the employment context but in the crime context. In parts of
Birmingham, for example, where individuals took the initiative
to try and force kerb crawlers off the street and out of their
area, it created a whole set of new networks which helped in very
significant ways to regenerate that particular community. I do
not think that would have happened if people had come in and said
to them "You must do this" it happened in that particular
instance because of one or two individuals. How you find and give
support to those right individuals is a conundrum. I am not qualified
to answer this but it seems to me it is the key.
23. Is not the other problem with thisand
I think there is a lot of evidence to support itthat the
people who get jobs in that way leave the communities which are
put on the job list. What you have to do then in order to make
it workand I do not know if you have any evidence of where
the problem has been crackedbut basically you have to find
a way of incentivising people who have the wherewithal to work
from within the deprived communities to stay.
(Ms Rosewell) Exactly. The first thing that you want
to do having made some success is to move out and, if you like,
build on that success, particularly if you then want something
for your children and so on. Again, I am afraid I have no answer
to that question and I do not know of anywhere where that particular
problem has been cracked, except in the context of essentially
strong religious or ethnic groups, and I am not sure that is necessarily
the route one would wish to follow.
24. Forgive me if I missed this, I do not think
I did but you started out spending obviously understandably quite
a lot of time on the retail: ten per cent of the economy, 2.6
million employers. I did not hear you mention anything about call
centres or the Internet which seems to me potentially to have
quite an effect on retail. Now you may think that is because it
will not have an effect on that. I would be interested if that
is your view?
(Ms Rosewell) I did mention call centres, though not
the Internet, in the context of part of what I would call support
services, which are partly call centres, partly technical e-mail
and so on. Does this have an impact on retail as such, I am not
clear that it does, at least in the sorts of timescales about
which we might reasonably think at the margin. In other words,
for most purposes most people will still want to see the things
that they get. Indeed there is evidence, certainly say from books
and CDs that the existence of services on the Net have, if anything,
encouraged people to go and do the physical side of it as much
if not more than they did before. Certainly there are aspects
which are not quite retail like in retail banking for example
where there may be some substitution of virtual services for physical
services and to some extent we have been seeing that for the last
10 or 20 years in any case with the rise of the telephone services,
15 years at any rate, rationalisation of bank branches and so
on. I would distinguish between those services which do not require
a physical deliverable and those services which do. I still go
to a bookshop, if I am not absolutely sure I want to buy this
book, I want to go and have a look at it rather than just buy
it from Amazon, for example. I think also there are still huge
issues of trust in virtual services so that the people doing well
with Internet services in general retail, Tesco for example, are
generally those who have considerable bricks and mortar investments
as well. These things, therefore, then are not substitutes for
one another, you cannot do well with the virtual service unless
people have also got the alternative. The real worry for retailers
is actually the cost base in all of this in that it is not obvious
that there is much rationalisation of the cost structures for
a retailer in essentially having to add on almost as a hygiene
factor for your services, having a telephone service or an Internet
service or a mail order service as well as all the other things
that you have to do as well. Obviously it is even more of a concern
if you get to the retail banking side of things but equally it
is a concern on the physical side of distribution too. The scope
for rationalisation may not be that great so all you are doing
is putting further pressure on margins for retailers.
25. Employment might increase then?
(Ms Rosewell) Yes.
26. Can I ask a question about older workers.
A lot of us are concerned, there is a famous B&Q store which
employs only people over 50, is it going to solve the problem
of older workers? I think the perceived opinion is that retailers
are more inclined to go for younger workers, is that true in practice
and is there anything the Government can do or the retail industry
can do as an industry, to encourage the recruitment of older workers
into retail jobs?
(Ms Rosewell) I would not say from the evidence that
we have seen that retailers have a particularly strong preference
directly either way in general. Clearly there are aspects of retailhigh
fashion for examplewhere you are trying to match your staff
to your customers so if your customers are all 18 to 24 girls
then, generally speaking, you want 18 to 24 year old girls to
be serving them because they are going to be sharing the same
interest and they will able to say if you look fat in that or
not. That is why the DIY area is the area which has been most
obviously suited to older workers because in general their clientele
is in the same age bracket also. I think it depends entirely who
is going shopping and there is not a general answer to that question
of preferences. What can one do to encourage the employment of
older workers? I am not sure that you need to do anything in fact,
for several reasons. Firstly, in general the age distribution
of the population is moving in that direction and so, if my hypothesis
is correct that you want people like the people who are your customers
to serve you, if your customers are getting older then so too
would workers without needing to do anything as such. Secondly,
as a supply/demand balance the issue is the same. So long as older
workers have the requisite skills, willingness and everything
else, and are willing to come forward then again they will tend
to be considered. You are not going to employ a 50 year old man
in the shops which are selling the high fashion to kids because
that will not happen and, indeed, probably they would not want
to do it anyway. Again it comes back to those kinds of issues.
I do not think retailers will wish to do anything other than employ
people who they think will be able to sell the stuff.
27. Finally, this might be an impossible question
to answer as well, do you believe there are one or two key things
that the Government could do at this stage in the economic cycle
to try and protect levels of employment in the future in anticipation
of an economic decline? If I am your fairy godmother, and let
us leave aside National Insurance contributions because that is
too easy for you, that is an obvious one, if we take that one
away from you, what would be the one or two things that you would
really want to concentrate on now to try and protect levels of
employment in the economy over the middle term?
(Ms Rosewell) I would say two different things. On
the one hand, I would say, again wearing my retail hat, as it
were, that enabling easier investment in retail outlets is one
way of helping job creation because this is one of the labour
intensive industries, which comes down to things like planning
legislation rather than anything to do with employment, so that
is one issue. So the ability to start business generally and retail
(Ms Rosewell) Secondly, really this is too easy as
well but I think it is important that the implications of things
like Working Time Directives and those sorts of restrictions deter
particularly small employers who create many of the jobs that
we have seen created over the last four or five years, particularly
those sorts of businesses.
29. You would do that before you would promote
more New Deals and all of these things?
(Ms Rosewell) Yes.
30. If it was a straight choice between the
kind of heavy commitment energy level that central Government
has been putting in with some of these supply side employment
schemes, you would opt from your perspective for generating small
businesses and reducing red tape?
(Ms Rosewell) Yes.
31. That has been very, very valuable. Thank
you very much for your evidence and your appearance this morning.
(Ms Rosewell) Thank you.