Covid-19 has upended our world of work and amplified the underlying inequalities in our society. We have seen the gulf widen between those in good work, and those whose working lives are precarious and uncertain, including many key workers across the country. It has become starkly apparent that the social and economic burden of the pandemic is not borne equally.
Against this background, the Institute for the Future of Work’s Good Work Monitor builds a detailed sub-regional map of access to good work across the country. It enables exploration of the downstream relationship of good work with local population health, and the upstream social and economic conditions of work by local areas for the first time.
The Good Work Monitor demonstrates that areas that offer a high level of access to good work are more resilient to the adverse effects of the pandemic, and suffer fewer deaths. Importantly, it shows a strong correlation of ‘bad’ work to ‘deaths of despair.’ This suggests that the worrying trends identified by Professor Sir Angus Deaton in the USA are now being reflected in the UK – a sharp reminder that prevention is better than cure.
The Good Work Monitor should lead to renewed impetus for the goal of ‘good work for all’ - and reposition ‘good jobs’ at the centre of recovery planning. If a silver lining can be drawn, it is that shocks can precipitate action that would not otherwise have been considered possible. This is the moment to act and ensure that a future of good work is secured for all.
Insights and outcomes
- New patterns of inequality in access to Good Work across time and place invite a fresh approach to establishing priority areas for the Levelling Up Fund. The current approach to fund allocation does not address the UK's core challenge: access to Good Work.
- Competition between local areas undergoing different transitions is likely to exacerbate structural inequalities, rather than address them. Competition will result in the inefficient allocation of funds as neighbouring areas with similar interests compete.
- The positive synergies between components of the Good Work Time Series demonstrate that employment and Good Work should not be treated as a trade-off. Job creation policies should aim for good jobs, not just employment.
- In spite of an improvement in total scores over the decade, the pace of transition is slow and inconsistent, and access to individual domains of Good Work have polarised. Levelling up demands sustained focus on creating Good Work across multiple domains.
- There are high levels of variation in profile composition between local authorities within a region, even between neighbouring areas. This points to a need for additional policy levers and transformative roles for local and combined authorities to enable customised interventions.
- Access to professional jobs acts as a vehicle to increase median pay and reduce the routinisation of work, suggesting the importance of creating these jobs, enabling worker transition and retention, alongside policies to ‘raise the floor’ of Good Work across other domains.
- Satisfactory hours (8) are sacrificed in many highly paid and professional jobs across the UK, except for Scotland, in ways that may not be sustainable. Synergies between professional work and satisfactory hours in Scotland invite review of labour market protection.
- Future Good Work for all should be repositioned as a central, cross-government policy objective. A national Strategy Work 5.0 should be initiated with a remit extending to all dimensions of the Good Work Monitor and the social, as well as economic, conditions for good work across the country.
- Levelling up the country must be a social as well as economic endeavour, guided by a shared vision of Future Good Work for all. The Good Work Monitor may be used to guide, evaluate and adjust levelling up policies across the country.
- Good work standards should be embedded by use of policy levers at a national, regional and local government level. Policy activism in recovery and levelling up planning should include raising basic standards for good work to boost the ‘floor’ of protection; and incentives to raise the ‘bar’ of best practice beyond legal requirements.
- Local authorities should be equipped to lead and implement local ‘compacts’ and pilots with across the domains of the Good Work Monitor in collaboration with other local authorities facing similar challenges. Our clustering methodology may enable a new approach to devolved funding and powers to advance the good work agenda.
- Open data on all dimensions of good work should be consistently collected and shared, together with the new areas highlighted here.