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The Great ‘Sector Swap’: The Labour Market Shift from Public to Private

The Great ‘Sector Swap’: The Labour Market Shift from Public to Private

Tuesday, 21 June 2011
09:00 - 12:00
The Work Foundation, 21 Palmer Street, London SW1H 0AD


  • Caroline Waters, Director of People and Policy, BT
  • Hugh Stickland, Labour Market Strategy Directorate, Department for Work and Pensions 
  • Stephen Bevan, Managing Director, The Work Foundation 
  • Neil Lee, Programme Director, The Work Foundation



The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts that by 2015 the UK will have 2.5 million more people employed overall, yet also predicts up to 600,000 jobs lost in the public sector in the same period. Edward Menashy from Morgan Stanley has confidently predicted that, as with the recession of the 1990s, the shedding of public sector works will be largely absorbed by the growth of the private sector. However it is not clear whether the skills shed by the public sector will match those required to create the necessary growth, or whether some people from the public sector may be over-qualified and possibly over-paid relative to the private sector.  

Concern is already being expressed that private sector employers may ‘think twice’ about employing people with a public sector background owing to negative perceptions and beliefs (for example, stereotypical beliefs that the public sector harbor a sense of entitlement, poor work ethic and skepticism about the profit motive).
Key questions:


  • How transferrable are the skills of those in the public sector?
  • How can the private sector capitalise on the influx of new talent to the labour market? 
  • What public policy can help support this transition at the national and local level? 
  • What, from a private sector perspective, can public employers do to ready their workforces for the transition?

How it works:
These exchanges are designed to stimulate a high level conversation about the world of work and the labour market. The emphasis is on sharing emergent research from The Work Foundation and first hand experience from a like-minded group of senior professionals and aiding cross-sector understanding. The exchange operates under Chatham House Rule and aims to produce a series of informal conclusions and recommendations for policy makers inside government and business.

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