Manpower planning revisited

présentée à la Faculté des Sciences Economiques et Sociales de l'Université de Genève
pour obtenir le grade de Docteur ès Sciences économiques et sociales,

mention économique politique



sous la direction du
Pr Jaime de Melo

Jury :
Pr Emilio Fontella, président du jury
Pr Yves Fluckiger
Rolph van der Hoeven, BIT

Thèse n° SES 501

Genève, 2000


      L'objet principal de la thèse est celui de re-examiner le débat portant sur l'organisation de la main d'oeuvre dans les pays en voie de développement. La thèse analyse les questions de planning d'emploi et de main d'oeuvre autour desquelles se sont établi des débats controversés.

      Par la suite, il est soutenu que l'utilisation de modèles pour le planning de main d'oeuvre ont un rôle à jouer. Les modèles du marché de l'emploi sont des outils utiles à la fois pour l'analyse du marché de l'emploi, et pour soutenir la construction de systèmes d'information du marché de l'emploi. En général il est soutenu que les modèles ne peuvent être construits sans une base fondée sur les systèmes d'information. Cette situation nous renvoi au cas de figue de la poule et l'oeuf, pourtant, tous deux sont dépendants l'un de l'autre.

      La thèse couvre aussi, d'une perspective historique, quelques unes des théories courantes sur le débat de la planification de la main d'oeuvre et particulièrement les théories s'orientant sur l'explication économique des cause du chômage. Elle examine d'autre part les définitions internationales reconnues des concepts d'emploi et de main d'oeuvre et montre que les altercations sont abondantes.

      Un model de main d'oeuvre est présenté et les résultats sont fournis et discutés en rapport avec sa mise en pratique au Sri Lanka. Pour finir, une application du «nouveau» type de planification de la main d'oeuvre est présenté en utilisant la notion d'equitetage du marché de l'emploi, et est appliquée au cas du Vietnam.


      The main thrust of this thesis is to re-examine the manpower planning debate in developing countries. This debate was vigorous in the 1970s and 1980s but has been relatively quiet since then. The debate appeared to end with the notion that all forecasting techniques that purported to assess manpower requirements in the future were dubious and that the future lay with labour market analysis and labour market signalling. This thesis disputes the first notion but agrees that the, often over-simplified and non-flexible forecasting models of the past, should be supplemented with better data and improved labour market analysis.

      The thesis begins with a presentation and analysis of the employment and manpower planning controversy. The literature is typified by such statements as:

      "The art of manpower planning is certainly in disarray. After decades of manpower forecasting practice, it has come under repeated and sustained criticism. Those still practicing the art might rightly be confused as to the mandate, methodology and overall usefulness of what they are doing." (Psacharopoulos, 1991)

      In the first chapter it is argued that the use of models for manpower planning do still have a role to play. Labour market models are useful both for labour market analysis and to help to design labour market information systems. Normally, the argument goes, models cannot be built without an underlying labour market information system. But this is chicken and egg, and both are dependent on each other.

      The second chapter overviews, from an historical perspective, some of the main labour market theories of relevance to the manpower planning debate and, in particular, those that have attempted to explain the economic causes of unemployment. Most theories do not centre on the causes of unemployment; rather they are mainly concerned with what causes, inter alia, accumulation, changes in the profit rate, inflation, growth, or changes in wages. Clearly, these causes are interrelated and so the emphasis of theory on a number of problems at once is not altogether surprising. The word 'overview' is used since it is difficult, if not impossible, to describe adequately all theories, thus the chapter's main purpose is to identify what the different theories say about the causes of unemployment as a forerunner to the presentation of a simulation model of the labour market in later chapters. The chapter deals with the labour market theories in temporal order. They are arranged into six main groups in order to preserve some common factors, namely classical theories (Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Mill, Marx); neo-classical (Say, Marshall, Schumpeter, Pigou, Hayek, Wicksell, Walras, Solow, Harrod, Domar, Schultz, Stiglitz); social reformers (Keynes, Lenin, Kornai); latter-day development economists (Lewis, Fei, Ranis, Prebisch, Hirschman); monetarists (Friedman); more recent development economists who are institutionalist in persuasion such as the segmentation theorists (Carnoy, Harris, Todaro); and, finally, recent views of the labour market (Krugman, Fine).

      In chapter three the question of "what are we trying to measure" is examined and then the main accepted international definitions are presented and discussed together with the recent ILO work on defining the informal sector. International comparisons of unemployment give an incomplete indication of how well labour markets function from country to country. Conceptual difficulties abound and the lesser developed a country is the poorer is its labour statistical base. For instance, the OECD publishes unemployment figures as supplied to it by its member governments but these are not directly comparable across nations. Buried in the back of OECD Reports, however, is a presentation of standardized rates for comparability among some of its member States.

      Chapter four presents a manpower planning or labour market model that the author has applied in several countries and is called "MACBETH". The purpose of the model for labour market and human resource policy analysis is to project and examine different scenarios of:

      The model can be used as a tool to ensure data consistency, to produce projections and is useful for perspective planning purposes. For example, it is possible to estimate the size and cost of a schooling system that will turn out the number of educated labour that is sufficient to meet the demand associated with a desired speed and sectoral composition of economic growth.

      But, perhaps the main use of MACBETH is learning-by-doing as an heuristic. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "heuristic" as a "system to discover; a system of education under which the pupil is trained to find out things for himself". While a system is a "complex whole, a set of connected things or parts, an organized body of material or immaterial things". Thus heuristic describes the essence of what MACBETH is, namely a tool with which to examine alternative scenarios and thereby to understand the complexities of the labour market and its underlying data.

      A full calibration and application of the model to Sri Lanka is described in Chapter five. The objective of the application was to assess the implications of alternative growth paths on employment and (broad) skill requirements. The basic data used to calibrate the model is presented followed by a section describing the reference or base scenario to the year 2000. Then, five alternative scenarios are presented and the chapter ends with a summary and conclusion.

      Finally, chapter six presents an application of the 'new' type of manpower planning using the notion of labour market signalling. Essentially, the chapter presents an application in Vietnam of three surveys that were carried out in an empirical attempt to assess manpower training needs for designing the future programmes of 15 key training schools. The thesis ends with a concluding chapter.