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The concept of employability

McQuaid, Ronald and Lindsay, Colin (2005) The concept of employability. Urban Studies, 42 (2). pp. 197-219. ISSN 0042-0980

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Abstract

The concept of 'employability' plays a crucial role in informing labour market policy in the UK, the EU and beyond. This paper analyses current and previous applications of the term and discusses its value as an exploratory concept and a framework for policy analysis. It then traces the development of the concept, discusses its role in current labour market and training strategies (with particular reference to the UK) and seeks to identify an approach to defining employability that can better inform labour market policy, by transcending explanations of employment and unemployment that focus solely on either supply-side or demand-side factors. Although the literature offers a range of definitions of 'employability', many policy-makers have recently used the term as shorthand for 'the individual's employability skills and attributes'. It is argued that this 'narrow' usage can lead to a 'hollowing out' of the concept of employability. The paper concludes by presenting a broad framework for analysing employability built around individual factors, personal circumstances and external factors, which acknowledges the importance of both supply- and demand-side factors.