What is 'Inclusive Employment?'

August 2022

‘Inclusive economic development’ means growing the economy by ensuring that as many people as possible are included within the economy. ArcBlue’s Social & Sustainable Procurement Lead, Emily Synnott, explores the current labour force dynamics, and how Inclusive Employment practices can benefit individuals facing barriers to work, their communities, employers and the economy.


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My name is Emily Synnott and I am the social and sustainable procurement lead for Arc Blue. So, inclusive growth is economic growth as it is distributed fairly across society and creates opportunity for all. Opportunity for employment is a foundational factor in inclusive growth. So, in the current mainstream working environment, many groups are not fairly represented.


However, more people included in the workforce lead to greater productivity and greater economic activity through the flow and effect of higher income and purchasing power. There are many reasons people may face barriers to work or to economically succeed.


People who often experience these barriers include people with disabilities, people who are refugees or migrants, aboriginal people, mature people.

We also know that the COVID pandemics were more young people and women lose work than other groups and they have also faced greater barriers getting back into the workforce.


Inclusive employment means proactively targeting those facing barriers to work and adjusting workplace practice, policy, and culture to better support their sustainable employment. Social procurement is strongly linked to employment outcomes and procurement plays a huge role in building inclusive economies.


As a buyer, purchasing goods and services, if you are purposeful about seeking value beyond your purchases, you can create employment and business growth outcomes for people who have experienced barriers to full economic participation. We also know that if a formerly unemployed person gets a job, it won’t just have a positive impact on them, it’s highly likely to have a positive impact on their family and on their community.


COVID-19 has put some pretty interesting pressures on the labour market, especially here in Australia. During COVID migration was halted and international students weren’t able to come here. Both of those groups have traditionally been big labour source for Australia. In industries that have relied on migrant workforces such as professional services, health care and manufacturing. We are seeing a really tight recruitment market at the moment. It has put pressures on workplaces and not a lot of organizations are set up to deal with this.


Additionally, we have seen a decrease in labour force participation, which means more people are both not working or seeking unemployment benefits. People are speculating at the moment about why this is happening and if it is around the impact of people being a bit mentally fragile after the stresses of COVID and lockdowns in Australia, people have been saying for years that we have an opportunity to untap the talent of people who want to work but experience barriers to work. Now we have this unique moment in the labour market where organizations really need to focus on being more inclusive to bring in this untapped talent into the workforce.


Being more inclusive is also good for business. Diverse workplaces thrive. They bring different perspectives, different solutions, and different thinking. We know that inclusive workplaces often mean that people bring their whole selves to work and that it really does improve workplace culture and therefore retention and wellbeing of staff.


We know from international Studies that people are increasingly prioritizing inclusivity when choosing where they want to work. They are seeking organizations that align with their values and want to see sustainability and inclusion taken seriously by their employers.


At ArcBlue, we look at the inclusive employment maturity of an organization first because it’s not just about how people recruit, it is a systemic piece within the organization that generally requires a culture change. When we work with organizations, we look at what their strategic goals are as an organization and how that can best align with their inclusivity goals. We look at leadership and communication, we look at policy and practice, recruitment and HR, and we look at accountability and reporting as well as offering inclusive employment solutions.


ArcBlue supports organizations to develop their social procurement capability. This means increasing inclusive growth through purchasing, through social enterprises and aboriginal businesses, and also how you can generate more inclusive outcomes through your procurement.