Cutting off your principles to spite the Guardian

George Osborne has floated a new public sector recruitment policy to be applied should the Conservatives get into power: all media advertising for government jobs will be pulled and instead a central website will be set up (at an alleged cost of £5m a year) to offer them.

Given that he could be the next-but-one Chancellor of the Exchequer, I hope that Mr Osborne is making a cynical appeal to public ignorance of recruitment markets and eBusiness costs, rather than believing this plan to be a good idea in its own right.

We’re the Tories, so let’s nationalise stuff

For starters, the £5m a year cost is a gross understatement. In the private sector, market leading online job site spends $187m on non-marketing non-wage costs to offer 12 million jobs a year. The civil service site would offer about 1.2 million jobs a year (20%ish turnover on 5.5ish million public sector workers); even assuming Monster’s size generates no economies of scale, then this takes the cost up to $19m (£10m).

Now, given that it costs the government £40,000 a year to run a blog, and given that’s original setup costs have been written off, do we think that the real cost will be in the £5m bracket, the £50m bracket, or the £500m bracket…?

I don’t understand, unless he is merely appealing to ignorance (or the desire to stick one to the Guardian, which currently has the highest market share for public sector recruitment), why Mr Osborne would float a policy of nationalisation that’s guaranteed to result in another public IT disaster.

Wanted: blind janitor with 1337 5k177z

In any case, there is absolutely no way the government could rely on this site for job advertising.

While Sir Humphrey may be the public stereotype of a civil servant, many public sector roles are not highly skilled. The median wage in the public sector is £488 a week, slightly above the private sector median wage. There are an awful lot of people working in the public sector on low incomes with poor literacy and IT skills (after all, how much of an IT whizz does a park-keeper need to be?), so recruiting them over the web is not going to produce a good selection of candidates.

A sizeable proportion even of better-paid people (particularly senior age groups, disabled people and ethnic minority groups, against whom the government is attempting to avoid discriminating at the moment) also do not currently use the Internet for job applications. We’ve all met senior bosses in the private and public sectors who are very good at their jobs but who rely on their secretaries to print and type their email.

Even among people who are able to use IT for basic work purposes, many may not be willing to trust the online channel for something as important as job recruitment – according to consulting group Forrester, 68% of people don’t even fully trust the web for shopping. A government website is obviously more trustworthy than, but plenty of people are seriously paranoid about technology.

They’re doing it already, and it isn’t enough

For an obvious, concrete example of why the site wouldn’t be enough on its own, simply Google for online job application statistics, as I did earlier. Nearly all the initial hits are online recruitment pages for public sector roles. And guess what? Despite already having access to this channel, these employers recruit through other channels as well…

A list of government recruitment sites wouldn’t be a bad idea – at the moment, there is no central resource that points applicants both to the civil service careers site and to the London councils careers site, as well as all the other arms of government and quango-ery (apart from Google).

But turning this link-list into a mega-IT project in a doomed plan to annoy the Guardian would be a tiny little bit silly.

(via Tim and The Daily Pundit, both of whom approve more than they should)

3 thoughts on “Cutting off your principles to spite the Guardian

  1. Crikey, you seem to have touched a nerve on that Daily Pundit site!

    Seems to me that they're not so much against Big Government as they are against *this* Government. Who'd have thought it?

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