Homemakers may be encouraged into workforce to ease skills shortages

‘Economically inactive’ groups could be encouraged into labour force with flexible working hours

Research shows recruitment firms are struggling to fill vacancies in rapidly growing areas such as IT, science/engineering and business. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

Research shows recruitment firms are struggling to fill vacancies in rapidly growing areas such as IT, science/engineering and business. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

 

More than 100,000 “economically inactive” homemakers, retirees and jobless people could be encouraged into the labour force with flexible working hours to help ease acute skills shortages.

The finding is contained in the National Skills Bulletin, which is due to be published by Solas, the further education and training authority.

Research shows recruitment firms are struggling to fill vacancies in rapidly growing areas such as IT, science/engineering, business and finance, construction and health.

The bulletin has for the first time identified “economically inactive” people aged between 15 and 64 years who could provide a vital source of labour at a time when skilled workers are in short supply.

This “potential additional labour force” includes those engaged in “home duties”, retired people and “discouraged” workers who have given up looking for jobs.

It notes there are about 26,000 people – mostly female – who are classified as on home duties who typically have relatively high levels of education and previous work experience.

Affordable childcare

The report says most of these homemakers are part of a couple where the other person is at work.

Incentives such as parental leave and affordable childcare could make the workplace more attractive, the report states.

“As the population continues to age and the labour market tightens, there is a need to both consider methods to encourage workers to remain in or return to the workforce, along with identifying other potential sources of labour supply,” the report states.

It also says flexible working options are likely to be key in helping to move economically inactive people into the labour force.

Overall, the report notes that demand for skilled workers last year was strongest in construction, hospitality and education.

Demand for skills from outside Europe grew last year with 9,400 work permits issued, a 22 per cent rise on the previous year.

Andrew Brownlee, executive director of Solas, said it was providing 300,000 further education and training places to meet the needs of learners, employers and communities.

It is aiming to boost employment outcomes from further education and training courses by 30 per cent and will roll out new models of apprenticeship and traineeships for tens of thousands of school-leavers.