Examining practices related to employment requirements in procurement
Conference contribution, 2017
Sweden is challenged by issues of social exclusion of disadvantaged groups like immigrants, young and disabled, refurbishment needs in underprivileged neighbourhoods, and an urgent shortage of construction workers. In an attempt to mitigate these issues, social procurement, and specifically employment requirements for hiring disadvantaged people, are now increasingly used in Swedish construction procurement. However, even though procurement is increasingly used as a strategic tool for accomplishing social values and goals, traditional price-focused procurement practices are still predominantly used. This contradiction has led to an experimentation where different actors use different approaches for implementing employment requirements, leading to scattered practices throughout the construction industry.
This paper examines practices related to the implementation of employment requirements in Swedish construction procurement, by interviewing 21 actors working in the construction industry, who are involved with strategically developing these practices. For the theoretical examination the theory of proto-institutions, meaning institutions under development, is applied for its practice-oriented perspective. Findings show that actors within the Swedish construction industry are well underway with creating proto-institutions, even though there is currently little convergence of practices. For theory, the findings illustrate how seemingly powerless and disadvantaged people can be vital supporters when creating new practices, and how emotional promotion can serve a powerful persuasive tool when arguing for employment requirements. These findings also have implications for practitioners, who could further develop practices by acknowledging, and perhaps consulting, the “unemployable”. The findings also provide insight into the power of emotional promotion and its strategic role in spreading practices related to employment requirements.