What would enable employers to increase and improve their efforts?
Since most practices have not been systematically evaluated, it is difficult to provide a concrete answer to this question. However, several studies provide clues about approaches and procedures that might be helpful, and many people have offered their informed opinions on this subject.
Most employers are unfamiliar with the range of government services and supports available for individuals transitioning from welfare to work and for the companies that hire them. This has led some researchers to recommend that the government better publicize these supports.
However, a number of studies indicate that employers are often not interested in financial incentives, such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for hiring welfare recipients. There is concern that hiring workers who prove unsuccessful ultimately may prove extremely costly. There also is evidence, from earlier rigorous studies of tax credits, that such incentives may signal to employers that eligible applicants are risky employees. Employers appear to be consistently more interested in supports that will enable them to hire effective workers, as opposed to receiving subsidies for marginally successful workers.
Many researchers have recommended that government agencies and community organizations provide more training, arguing that training would increase the likelihood that individuals transitioning from welfare to work would obtain, retain, and advance in employment. There is evidence that soft skills as well as job skills are important to job retention and advancement by welfare recipients. Researchers have also encouraged efforts to ensure that the training provided resonates with employers' real needs, and that there are jobs available for individuals who complete training programs.
Finally, a number of researchers have concluded that closer relationships are needed between employers, government agencies, and community organizations. Qualitative analyses on such relationships suggest they are most effective when they involve business-intermediary partnerships and when efforts to hire welfare recipients are integrated into companies' human resources processes (Mills and Kazis, 1999).
(4) It is important to note that the research literature includes several groups of publications based on analyses of the same data source. Indeed, in some cases more than one document addresses different aspects of the same analyses-for example, one document providing a summary and policy recommendations geared to decision makers, a second providing more analytical details for researchers, and a third focusing on a particular issue (such as hiring) included in the analysis. Harry Holzer and his collaborators have conducted a number of analyses for each of two surveys of employers. In several other instances (such as some studies on WIA conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office), more than one analysis and/or presentation has been based on the same set of qualitative case studies. As a result, a number of the documents we reviewed cover the same or similar research as other documents.
(5) In part this limited hiring by manufacturers reflects slower relative growth in the manufacturing sector, resulting in fewer job openings. In addition, many welfare recipients may lack the requisite occupational skills for manufacturing jobs.
(6) This group includes current TANF recipients, individuals who have received welfare within the last year, and individuals who live in households with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
(7) Training refers to both those skills required for a specific position plus additional hard and soft skills necessary for employment.
(8) Most of the available research on employer-provided training (which varies in type and intensity) does not focus on welfare recipients. See, for example, L. Lynch, "Private Sector Training and Its Impact on the Earnings of Young Workers," American Economic Review, vol. 82, no. 1 (1992), pp. 299-332.
(9) "Soft skills" are the nontechnical abilities and traits needed to function in a work environment. They include problem-solving and other cognitive skills, oral communication skills, personal qualities (including conscientiousness and work ethic), and interpersonal and teamwork skills
(10) For example, in the Women's Employment Study, conducted in Michigan, half of sample members employed in at least 75 percent of the months in the three years covered by the study had mental health problems; 60 percent had physical limitations; 54 percent experienced domestic violence; and six percent used alcohol or drugs heavily at least part of this time. However, most of these steadily employed women did not have these problems in all three years examined in the study. See Danziger and Seefeldt (2002). As discussed below, more recent findings from Illinois (Kirby et al., 2003) differ from those in Michigan.
"report.pdf" (pdf, 212.99Kb)