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The ‘employability gap’ : long-term unemployment and barriers to work in buoyant labour markets

McQuaid, Ronald and Lindsay, Colin (2002) The ‘employability gap’ : long-term unemployment and barriers to work in buoyant labour markets. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 20 (4). pp. 613-628. ISSN 1472-3425

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Abstract

We analyse the main barriers limiting the employability of long-term unemployed job seekers within a local labour market characterised by generally high levels of demand. We use four key elements of employability (employability assets, the deployment of assets, the presentation of assets, and context) as an analytical framework in order to analyse the manner in which job seekers' personal characteristics, social and family circumstances, and perceptions of the labour market affect their ability to pursue employment opportunities. The results of interviews carried out with 115 long-term unemployed job seekers show that individual and family circumstances and attitudes towards work and job seeking are likely to be increasingly important barriers given the context of a relative lack of demand-side problems and the availability of lower-skilled jobs in expanding industries. In particular, many long-term unemployed job seekers were reluctant to seek jobs in the expanding service sectors of the local economy. Although the concept of employability provides a useful theoretical and policy framework for analysing long-term unemployment issues, models based upon an employability framework should be expanded to incorporate the role of employers and so integrate supply-side and demand-side perspectives.