‘Time to commit to good work economy,’ says review head

As political parties prepare to launch UK election manifestos, Matthew Taylor, head of the RSA, has set out why now is a particularly critical time to make work a central part of the national agenda.

Neon sign saying work harder
In an address to the RSA annual lecture yesterday (8 May), RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor argued that all work should be good work – which he defines as “fair and decent, with scope for development and fulfilment”.Mr Taylor's speech referred to new figures from the RSA showing 73 per cent of people think we should do more as a country to improve the quality of jobs. Only nine per cent think all jobs currently are fair and decent – but 67 per cent think it is possible that all jobs could be fair and decent.

Bad work still a fact for many

“For most of us work is one of the most important things in our life," said Mr Taylor. "We spend a lot of our time doing it. It’s how we support ourselves and our families. It’s often where we forge strong friendships and even meet partners. Given how important work is, at the RSA we’re arguing that it should be good for us and good for society.“Over recent decades, government work policy has focused primarily on getting people into jobs with, as current record employment levels attest, considerable success. Yet persistent scandals of bad working conditions, poor legal safeguards and job insecurity suggest that bad work is all too common. We need, therefore, to talk about quality of work, and not just quantity."

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Putting good work back on the national agenda

Mr Taylor continued: “At the RSA, we define good work as ‘fair and decent with scope for fulfilment and development.’ I believe this is a realistic aspiration for people at all stages of their careers, in all types of employment and at all levels. Ahead of the government review I will be publishing in the summer, now is the time to put good work on the national agenda.”Mr Taylor, who is leading the government review into modern working practices, set out five reasons why he believes it is time to commit to a good work economy:
  1. in-work poverty at historic highs
  2. the link between work, health and wellbeing
  3. productivity
  4. the impact of automation
  5. to foster habits of active citizenship.
The RSA’s perspective adds further pressure to politicians to focus on employment as part of the current election campaign. The CBI last week said skills and more inclusive workplaces should be top strategic issues for businesses, and called for politicians to prioritise stability and a long-term vision for the nation's economy.

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