Government and organisations develop policies that can help in achieving certain strategic goals and objectives. Efforts to solve particular problems that attract public concerns create the necessity to formulate and implement public policies. Ridde (2009) defines a public policy as an action that a government deems appropriate and/or inappropriate for its people. Public policy is a set of aims and a specified group of activities, which when properly executed, resolve a particular public problem (Lyhne 2011).
National Employment Services Association (NESA) seeks to address the problem of unemployment and placement of people in employment as early as possible to prevent a situation of long-term unemployment for new graduates. Indeed, unemployment constitutes one of the significant areas of public policy since the economic wellbeing of people depends on their ability to generate livelihood. This paper uses NESA to conduct an evaluation of its structure and public policy-related activities. It discusses employment services of 2015 as a significant public policy activity.
Background to the Organisation
NESA focuses on offering support to employment services across all industries in Australia with the objective of ensuring that people obtain sustainable work opportunities. National Employment Services Association (2014a, Para.1) reckons that it wants ‘all working-aged Australians to have the opportunity to participate in the economic and social life of the community’. The organisation operates as the voice of industry of employment services.
It plays essential roles in advancing and developing employment services within Australia via representation, leadership, and more importantly, engaging in advocacy. NESA works in cooperation with stakeholders in the employment services industry such as the government and employers to ensure the achievement of various development goals. Such developments include facilitating the placement of job seekers. From 2015 and 2016, the organisation will have an employment services policy, which will form the focus of analysis and evaluation in the rest of this paper.
2015-2016 Employment Services Policy
NESA plans the commencement of a new Australian system for employment services by early July 2015. As the Australian Government Department of Employment (2014, Para. 1) notes, “the Australian government is investing $5.1 billion over years from 2015-2016 in the new system to better the needs of jobseekers, employers, and service providers”. Can this system be effective in reducing employment levels among the youths?
Can it enhance better placement of unemployed people in the Australian job market? Indeed, the National Employment Services Association (2014b) observes that incidents of unemployment amongst the youths remain significantly high with 15 and 19-year age gap making 16.3 % of job seekers in Australia. This observation highlights the importance of these interrogatives. Most importantly, NESA reports that unemployment amongst this group of people has stagnated at an average of 16% for now over a decade (NESA 2014b).
The problem of unemployment among the youths varies across different states and territories. For examples, in January this year, Tasmania reported the highest unemployment rates (23.8%) among the youths (NESA 2014b). Thus, it is crucial for this group of people to get an early placement and/or engage in training and development programmes to increase their intake in the available job opportunities. An arising question is whether the proposed policy framework for 2015-2016 can help to achieve this noble goal. NESA confirms that the policy framework is effective in the extent it encourages going back to the basics of dealing with the challenges of unemployment. It advocates more funding to facilitate better connections, servicing of jobseekers, and driving forward the agenda on contracting and purchasing arrangements (NESA 2014b)
The basic tenets for dealing with unemployment entail a reduction of overreliance on welfare benefits. They encourage better engagement of people in employment to make them more economically independent. The Australian Government Department of Employment (2014) confirms that dependency on welfare and unemployment benefits is disadvantageous for households and individuals across Australia and the society.
The NESA (2014b) identifies financial sustainability and red tape compliance challenges as major issues that influence employment-contracting services in Australia. Consistent with this challenge, the Australian Government Department of Employment (2014) observes that the focus of employment services policy framework for 2015-2016 is to facilitate sustainability in the employment sector in Australia. This goal will be achieved through ensuring that all job seekers remain in active engagement throughout their employment search period.
The new employment service policy areas for 2015 to 2016 propose various changes in employment services. All jobs seekers will be demanded to conduct 20 job searches every month. Providers for job opportunities will have to tailor their requirements and to have flexibility for the needs of employment seekers together with the conditions that exist in the labour markets. Jobs seekers have the obligation not to refuse any work plan that is developed to foster improvement of their readiness and preparedness for work in the future.
They also need to follow and respect any commitment that is made with potential employers. NESA requires job seekers to complete various work-related chores such as taking part in part-time study, work, volunteering, and/or participating in training and development programmes for a period of not less than 6 months, 25 hours in a week, if they are below 30 years (Australian Government Department of Employment 2014). Where the job seekers are between 30 and 49 years, the new policy requires them to engage in these activities for not less than 15 hours per week for a period of six months.
The new employment service guidelines influence employers and jobseekers. This influence suggests that they meet the definition for public policy as offered by Ridde (2009). In some situations, government and organisations that serve the interests of the public such as NESA adopt policies, which fail to achieve the anticipated outputs. Hence, public policies have to be subjected into analysis to determine their capacity to resolve the intended challenges by developing positive impacts to the targeted areas.
Policy failure occurs when the problem that is intended to be solved by the policy continues to persist, despite the implementation of the formulated public policy. Such a situation attracts the attention of policy analysts who seek to determine reasons that lead to policy failure. Some of the commonest approaches for achieving this objective entail digging out any deficiencies in the policy formulation and implementation phases (Ridde 2009).
Discovery of deficiencies at either phase or both implies that some important aspects of policy formulation and implementation were not considered in the formulation and implementation phase, or that some of the considered aspects were incoherent with the anticipated policy aims, objectives, and goals. For the employment service policy area, its implementation is scheduled for 2015 to 2016. Hence, any deficiency can only be traced in the formulation phase.
Public policy formulation process intends to limit any identified consequences of a problem against the subject environments. It invokes better performance of the public sector’s undertakings (Fyfe, Miller & McTavish 2009). Well-formulated policies are rational, specific in their statements, and applicable to only specific extents (Marsh & McConnell 2010). Such policies are ambiguity-deficient. Besides, they are effective in achieving the intended objectives. The process of public policy formulation is intricate. Overlooking all stakeholders and pressure groups is a dangerous mistake to the justification of a policy.
The working together of the internal organisational environment and the civil society as a team depicts the aspect of democracy and collective representation, which enhances effective policy formulation process. In case of the new employment service policy that NESA proposes, the interest of all stakeholders in the employment sector has been taken into consideration. Employers need to have qualified personnel in the relevant areas of specialisation. Job seekers are also interested in securing jobs to enhance their social and economic development. The new policy helps in bridging these areas of concern for the two parties.
Through the policy, employers anticipate having access to skilled and potential employees in the labour markets. This plan suggests that they do not have to incur higher costs of additional training, development, and engagement programmes. Australian Government Department of Employment (2014, Para.9) supports this move when it claims that employment seekers will engage in work for “Dole or other activities to prepare them for the work environment, and any training they do will be relevant to employers’ needs and real job opportunities”. Additionally, employers gain accessibility to salaries and wage subsidies for potential employees across all age groups. For the employees, through the new employment service policy, the government ensures progressive strides towards promoting effective engagement of people to alleviate income from salaries and wages.
Workers who are highly knowledgeable and conversant with the institutional processes are crucial during effective policy formulation process. In case of the new employment service policy, NESA comprises a highly knowledgeable institution in terms of employment trends and challenges that have been experienced in the past. Such challenges should not be replicated in 2015 and beyond.
The organisation plays important roles in employment service institutional processes that encompass the determination of policy subject matter, implementation plans, designing and scrutinising assessment criteria, and the revising of employment sector public policies. Analysis based on the identified problems in public policy formulation enhances the realisation of well-formulated policies of mitigating risks or the emergence of unintended consequences. Plans that are laid to deal with organisational setbacks on policy management are significant in terms of raising policy formulation capability.
In case of the new employment policy framework, NESA possesses reliable capability on employment sector’ policy formulation processes akin to its long-term experience in the area of expertise. In fact, the new policy helps successful employment seekers to find work and/or aid employers to achieve their recruitment demands by filling job openings with motivated and highly qualified people. Indeed, this move comprises an attempt to ensure that the formulated policy meets the needs of all stakeholders without disadvantaging any one of them.
The evaluation process comprises an integral aspect in the process of making public policies. It aids in the identification and reflection of the unanticipated and anticipated outcomes of a policy. Evaluation is the process of measuring the performance of any activity or employees to determine their goodness or badness in an organisation (Cope & Goodship 1999). The main objective of policy evaluation entails informing policy developers on the progress of policy implementation together with how the formulated policies and/or those that are under implementation conform to the anticipated outcomes (Cope & Goodship 1999).
When public policy evaluators discover that the formulated policies and/or policies under implementation have deficiencies, which can make the policies fail to achieve the desired outcomes, evaluation forms the tool for alerting policy makers on the needs to consider alternative policies. It also helps in the correction of erroneous aspects of a policy in the process of implementation (Rist 1995). Where policy implementation process yields the anticipated outcomes, evaluation is also crucial. It forms the justification for legitimisation of a public policy.
Evaluation process constitutes an important part of the process of policy learning. It is applied in policymaking processes as a scientific activity and a positivist exercise (Rist 1995). It serves the functions of determination of eminence, efficacy, policy effects, capacity to achieve the desired goals, and the rationale for determining costs that are incurred in the formulation and implementation of public policies (Marsh & McConnell 2010).
In this context, evaluation does not form a discrete activity in the making of public policies. Rather, the activity is integrated in all processes of public policymaking such as policy formulation and implementation. For the new employment service policy, the formulation process, as discussed in the analysis section, does not have any significant drawbacks. It balances the interests of all stakeholders in the Australian labour market. However, this step will not guarantee the success of the policy in its implementation phase in 2015.
From the above expositions, even with the good will and intentions of the new guiding principles, policy failure may occur at the implementation stage. In fact, most failures of public policies occur at the implementation phase (Marsh & McConnell 2010). What can be done to reduce chances of failure at the implementation phase? NESA endeavours to respond to this interrogative by advocating conformance to the guidelines that have been formulated by all parties that have a share in the new policy.
To reduce cases of failure of any policy at the implementation phase, bureaucratic implementation strategies are important. Implementing public policy through bureaucracy places more focus on obedience by groups of people who are targeted by the policy. Less focus is placed on their reactions to the policy. The evaluation of implementing agency determines its capacity to enforce the policy through the established rules, regulations, and laws to avoid deviance. Although all employers are required to conform to the guidelines set by NESA, it is not clear what the organisation will do to reduce cases of deviance.
Bureaucracy constitutes the only mechanism the government can enhance conformance to the new policy directives through NESA in a more effective manner. Bureaucracy has the capability of understanding and/or altering mythologies, aims, and areas of importance in the policy implementation process to ensure compliance (Page 1992). It also has the ability to change policy, to some degree, via redefinition of the appropriate actions of a policy. Such policy remoulding process reduces the target groups’ reluctance to compliance. The ability of bureaucratic systems of policy implementation to redefine some aspects of public policy reveals the importance of public policy evaluation at the implementation stage, which cannot be effectively accomplished here, since the policy implementation has not already started.
As from mid 2015, evaluation of the policy will help in monitoring the actions of the implementation agents. This plan is important in the effort to mitigate risks that are associated with the implementation agents’ capacity to redefine policies in ways, which impair success of the execution approach and methodologies as prescribed in the new employment service policy formulation stage. For this purpose, policy execution administrative agents such as courts and the parliament will become important evaluators of policy performance process (DelLeon & Denver 2002). They will also help in the determination of the necessary actions during the implementation process. The administrative agents can also establish interim rules and/or final rules that are necessary for guiding new employment service policy implementation processes from 2015 to 2016.
The government enacts policies through its representative organisations to improve social and economic lives of its citizens. The paper has discussed one of such organisations, namely the National Employment Services Association of Australia and its policy areas of employment services. Through the analysis of the new policy that is set to take effect from July 2015, the paper has held that the policy is important in helping to meet the employer and employee needs.
The government has an interest in the success of the policy. However, although the policy does not experience any problem at the formulation stage, the paper has confirmed that it remains susceptible to problems at the execution phase. To mitigate this challenge, the paper has recommended thorough evaluation to be conducted at the operations phase in 2015. Bureaucratic performance process is recommended to ensure that all parties who have a stake in the new policy comply with the policy requirements without reluctance.
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