With job vacancies recovering strongly, the labour market is in a state of flux again. Many employers are finding it incredibly difficult to fill job roles, especially in the hospitality sector. At the same time, long-term unemployment is on the rise.
As always, we need to do all we can to remove the barriers that stand in the way of jobseekers finding the job for them and employers finding the people they need. While some of the barriers to, and enablers of, employment - such as skills, health or confidence - are common to both city and rural residents, it is well known that there have long been specific connectivity issues facing rural jobseekers.
Rural transport putting the brakes on jobs recovery
It will be no surprise to rural stakeholders that when we surveyed our frontline employment advisers and those of our partners working in rural areas, transport topped the list of challenges for jobseekers. The vast majority (92%) said that they had supported a rural jobseeker who was unable to apply for or accept a job because of transport difficulties. The most disadvantaged jobseekers are penalised the most, particularly disabled people, single parents and young people, the latter having borne the brunt of the pandemic’s labour market impact. The difficulty of not just getting to a job but to training, childcare or health support without a car narrows the choices of the jobseeker and the talent pool of the employer.
With changes and funding afoot via the Government’s new bus strategy we have an opportunity to put labour market concerns at the heart of rural transport planning. We need not just more buses (and sustainable funding for community transport) but transport designed with working patterns in mind, enabling people to get to their job at the right time, especially given the shift patterns so common in many growing rural sectors such as logistics and recovering hospitality businesses.
Could we also encourage employers to get more involved in supporting transport solutions in rural areas? Funding minibuses or other demand-led transport services is expensive, but for employers who struggle to recruit and are poorly served by public transport the benefit may outweigh the cost. Other options include getting involved in transport planning or supporting car share schemes for employees.
Transport is just one of the key issues for rural labour markets as they recover, but a good example of where we need to accelerate the place-based collaboration we have seen during the pandemic and work together even more closely.
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