Amid all the noise and head scratching unleashed by Brexit in 2018, there was one other constant – the UK’s tightening labour market.
With the number of people in work rising to hit a record high of 32.5 million, the unemployment rate dipped to a low not seen for more than four decades. In December, the most recent data showed just 4.1% of economically active Britons were without a job.
Against that backdrop, tens of thousands of employers are still looking to hire. There are around 850,000 vacancies currently unfilled, with very little slack in the jobs market.
This leaves much of the power with jobseekers; we’ve recently discussed how job hopping is on the rise, partly because of how shallow the pool of unemployed talent currently is.
The net effect of these two trends has been to make it harder for employers both to recruit and retain talent.
One possible solution for employers who need to find skilled staff is to target underutilised pockets of the market. There are pools of talented workers who are currently underrepresented in the workforce, and which might therefore present a rich seam of candidates to employers who may not have considered them until now.
All the single parents
The prime untapped talent pool identified by Indeed’s labour market analysis is single parents, who number close to 3 million in the UK.
A large portion of single parents are not economically active; typically those who are not working, or looking to do so, while they prioritise their families. But of those that are keen to work, more than a tenth (10.6%) are unemployed.
As Indeed’s economist Pawel Adrjan describes it: “Single parents are less likely than the overall population to participate in the workforce. When they do, they are more likely to be unemployed than many other demographics, suggesting that they struggle more to find a job than others.”
People do not suddenly become less skilled after they have had a child. The pool of single parents will have a wealth of experience and ability, while a career break could help reinvigorate workers and encourage a fresh perspective on aspects of business.
With one in nine single parents currently unemployed, employers who are keen to grow their workforce should not overlook the skills this group can offer.
However, those looking to tap into this talent pool may need to adapt their offer to appeal more to single parents, whose priorities may understandably differ from some of their peers.
Single parents are likely to be more limited in their flexibility, both in terms of their working hours and in their distance from where they are expected to work.
This should not be allowed to diminish their appeal to prospective employers. Rather, forward-thinking companies that recognise the talent in this relatively untapped pool should instead ensure they are as accommodating and enticing as possible to single parents.
Indeed’s research showed that searches for flexible or remote-working jobs and in working from home has gone up by 71% in the past three years. While this interest is not unique to single parents, it is a reflection of a growing trend most employers are more alive to, and one that can only be beneficial to the attraction and integration of single parents into a workforce.
Other perks like childcare provision will appeal more directly to single parents, but we have discussed in the recent past how flexibility, and the prioritising of a healthy work-life balance, will benefit employees of all demographics.
Other talent pools to consider
While Indeed’s research identified single parents as perhaps the deepest pool of untapped talent, it was by no means the only underutilised collective that employers might want to target.
Young people – in this case, those under 30 – are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than those in either of the age brackets above them. The unemployment rate is 7.3% for 18-29 year olds, compared with 2.7% for 30-49 year olds and 2.8% for 50-64 year olds.
The transition from education or training into the workforce is not always a straightforward one, and while many employers already work hard to target youngsters with high potential and to develop them, there remains a large pool going untapped.
It is a similar story for people with disabilities. Great strides have been made in integrating these workers – the number of new hires from unemployment for this demographic has risen by 13.6% in the past five years, with a rise of 6.1% in those being hired from inactivity – but the unemployment level still sits at 8.4%.
As with single parents, concessions may need to be made for employers to accommodate these workers, but there are undoubtedly skills on offer that could yield a good return on investment.
The unemployment level for those from ethnic minority backgrounds is also above the national average, currently sitting at 6.3%. Like those with disabilities, their line is moving in the right direction, with a 3.4% increase in new hires from unemployment since 2013. However, there is still a lot of potential talent their employers could be investigating further.
It is worth noting that these groups are not mutually exclusive. One person may tick more than one box – for instance, a single parent under the age of 30, or someone from an ethnic minority background who is also disabled – so some of these pools will overlap.
In any case, employers should be more aware of the talent that is out there. The cupboard is not quite as bare as the headlines may make it seem, and these relatively untapped talent pools can provide some answers to the hiring conundrums that employers now face with increasing regularity.