12 May 2017
The government’s job tsar Matthew Taylor this week linked the poor quality of work on offer in Britain to the nation’s lack of economic productivity – a factor also highlighted in the Institute of Employment Rights’ (IER) Manifesto for Labour Law, 25 recommendations for reform.
Economic productivity in the UK is currently at a record low compared with the G7 average, threatening the country’s long-term financial stability and putting us at risk of further recession.
Speaking as part of an annual lecture, the economist and former Blair adviser said it is in the interests of everyone that businesses invest in their workforces and provide better quality job opportunities, according to a report in the Telegraph.
“As we all know, the UK has a productivity problem,” the newspaper quoted Taylor as saying. “This problem is complex and multifaceted but there is little doubt that one facet is bad work.”
“Despite the evidence that employee engagement contributes to higher productivity, overall levels of reported employee engagement are low in the UK by international standards, and the proportion of low-skilled workers in the UK who report that they have no freedom to share the organisation of their work has, according to one survey, increased from 42% to 57% over the last decade,” he added.
“There is much that needs to be done. Levels of investment in employee training and learning is less than half of that of our European competitors and have fallen even further in recent years.”
Taylor argued that a good quality job includes workers experiencing “genuine flexibility, being valued and respected, learning and growing, having voice and autonomy, feeling work has a meaning and purpose”.
He also argued that democracy at work is important for encouraging citizens to feel engaged by the state in all areas of their life.
“How can we encourage active and engaged citizenship in society when we accept the denial of recognition, respect and engagement at work?” he said.
Indeed, the IER has linked poor quality work with productivity, inequality and low job satisfaction, calling on the government to promote greater democracy in the workplace in order that workers can negotiate for a better deal.
Through the restoration of sectoral collective bargaining and stronger trade union rights, workers can more easily call for fairer pay and conditions, discouraging firms from competing on a race to the bottom when it comes to workers’ rights. Instead, they will be incentivised to compete on research and innovation, investing in their workforce and a better quality of product or service. As Taylor pointed out, there is evidence to suggest that improving employee engagement, training, and the quality of produce the UK creates will all increase our national productivity.