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Cost of living gap, debt, stress and Brexit

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Labour Market Realities, Conservative government, stress, Brexit, low pay, job insecurityNew report looks at labour market realities.

The second annual report from the Centre for Labour and Social Studies on the state of the UK labour market included a major worker survey which found that the cost of living gap is leading to longer working hours, stress and debt.

And that Britain is more stressed and overworked than ever, with one in three workers unable to keep up with the basic cost of living and many turning to payday loans and other forms of credit.

And that this is set to get worse with Brexit which a quarter of British workers say it will impact on their own job.

The performance of the UK labour market is constantly framed around a narrative of record employment – yet we also know that there are record levels of workers in poverty and that wages today remain lower than they were in 2008 and headline employment statistics are not providing a true picture of the lived reality in the labour market.

To rectify this, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies provides a yearly survey of workers. The findings paint a worrying picture.

The Centre’s latest workers confidence survey has found that:

Workers are struggling to make ends meet: Over a third of those surveyed struggle to keep up with the basic cost of living, with this proportion nearing half for those living in London, those earning under £20,000 per annum and the young;

Workers are stressed and overworked: Nearly 60 per cent of workers find their job stressful and nearly half have noted an increase in their workload over the past 12 months. On a daily basis, a quarter of workers are working more hours than they wish to just to complete basic tasks, and one fifth admit to cancelling plans in order to do so;

The economy is not working for workers: Merely 3 in 10 think the economy works well for them and there is little confidence in this changing;

There’s no end in sight: Over half of UK workers deem the economy a threat to their future employment and only 3 in 10 workers are expecting an above inflation pay rise in 2019. To put it bluntly, over two-thirds of the UK’s working population is expecting to get poorer over the coming year.

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies recommends:

The government to properly measure job quality and worker wellbeing and avoid the use of misleading headline employment statistics alone;

A new Ministry of Labour to bring due attention to workers, strengthening workers’ rights and renewing the relationship between government and trade unions;

The Low Pay Commission to be scrapped and replaced with a Real Living Wage Commission, giving workers a say about their pay and reducing their working hours.

As this report outlines, much of the rhetoric surrounding the labour market is predicated on forcing more and more people into work.

Headlines are written and television soundbites abound that focus on the quantity of jobs while a whole host of other issues are simply side-lined.

If this is to change, a number of key steps need to be taken.

Firstly, the government must step out from behind the smokescreen of ‘record employment’ and challenge a culture of low pay, overwork and stress and almost non-existent representation in the labour market.

As part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, the ‘Good Work Plan’ committed to placing equal importance on both quantity and quality of work.

There is little evidence of this being put into practice thus far. Elevating job quality metrics to equal importance as employment figures should remain a priority.

Secondly, beyond simply reporting job quality metrics there needs to a drastic change in policy and practice to alleviate pressures that many workers are facing on a day-to-day basis.

The ‘Good Work Plan’ also states the commitment of the government to enhance workers’ rights upon leaving the European Union, not simply maintaining them.

Again, however, there is very little in the way of a blueprint that clarifies what this means.

The recommendations made in this report aim to rectify this: measuring job quality, and enhancing workers rights by establishing a Ministry of Labour, restoring work-life balance and promoting economic democracy. How to do this is outlined here.

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