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February 11, 2021

The View from IFOW | IFOW January Newsletter

The View from IFOW

Welcome to our latest Future of Work round-up, where we reflect on what we’ve been doing, thinking about and planning.

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Last week, we launched the Good Work Monitor to explore the relationship of good work and health. This has, we think, particular resonance as the UK pushed past the grim tally of 100,000 COVID-19 related deaths. And as the Prime Minister finally says that he will publish a lockdown exit plan, we reveal more evidence that focusing on good work should be put at the heart of recovery planning.

What we've been doing

We’ve continued to uncover strong links between our society’s resilience to COVID-19 and people’s access to good work. Since the Future of Work Commission in June, we have been digging deep into geography of access to good quality work and health and other for communities across the country. Our research has culminated in the Good Work Monitor, an interactive tool that shows why and how access to good work protects people against illness, and social and economic shocks.

Our analysis has found that the places where good work is most available have fared best throughout the pandemic. More shockingly, the monitor has revealed a strong correlation between ‘bad’ work and COVID-19 mortalities and deaths of despair. Good work, it seems, is quite literally a matter of life and death.

Building on a growing body of research on work quality, including by IFOW partners at the Health Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, RSA, Carnegie Trust and the CIPD, we have combined data on three domains derived from the Institute for the Future of Work’s Good Work Charter: labour market  access, status and autonomy, and pay and conditions. And we’ve mapped this data downstream with local population health, and upstream to social and economic conditions.

Last year, we saw the gulf widen between those in good work, and those whose working lives and more precarious and uncertain, including many key workers across the country.  Our analysis has uncovered evidence at local levels that people without access to good work are more vulnerable to diseases, as well as deaths, of despair such as liver diseases, drug use disorders, and self-harm. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Ischemic Heart Disease and tracheal, bronchus and lung cancers also correlate to the absence of good work. Together, our findings show that good work builds resilience and is central to meeting the wellbeing and flourishing of people and communities across the country.

So we recommend:

1. The Cabinet Office should now initiate a national Work 5.0 Strategy with wide-ranging remits to create the environment and infrastructure to promote good work and build resilience.

2. Levelling up demands investment in social, as well as capital, infrastructures to heal deep divides across the UK. A focus on creating and sustaining good work is the most effective way of promoting health and wellbeing, mitigating striking geographic inequalities and boosting resilience across the country.

3. National and local government should use all available policy levers to embed good work standards:

- Good work standards for government employees and contractors should be required, directly and attached to procurement contracts and services

- Coronavirus assistance for employers should require good work standards in recognition of its importance to people, communities and the nation

- New public employment programmes and active labour market policies aimed at building good work across the country should be prioritised in the March 2021 Budget, alongside incentives for employers to create new good jobs and improve standards

- The moral, health and economic case for good work should be promoted through official channels.

4. National government should equip local authorities to lead and implement local ‘compacts’ across the domains of the Good Work Monitor in collaboration with others facing similar challenges, so that they are able to perform a transformative role, responding to diverse challenges at a local level.

5. Consistent and open data collection on all dimensions of good work should be expedited, including data for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which was not available to us.

We would love to hear from you if you would be interested in working together to use the full scope of the Monitor in the future.

We worked with researchers from University College London and Opinium to rigorously select, assess and compile the data that underpins the monitor which we are sharing.

Events For Your Calendar

On 28th January our Director Anna Thomas gave evidence of our findings to  the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee. You can watch the recording of the meeting here.

Digit Debates are holding a series of webinars to discuss research from leading thinkers about how digital technologies are changing work. The six-webinar series kicks off on 3rd February. Book online.

Anna Thomas is chairing on the FT Future WorkForce conference on 9 March. Book here or email us for a VIP pass.

Stronger Things 2021: Communities vs Crisis will cover topics including why public service collaboration is the future, and how councils and communities rise up to cope with crises. Michael Marmot leads an all-star cast of  “movers and shapers”. 9th, 10th, 11th March. Book online.

Future of Work Geeks' Update

For a full briefing on the best future of work-related reports, articles, videos and podcasts from the last month, subscribe to our Future of Work Geeks' update. Soon these resources will form part of our upcoming Future of Work Library. Each month, we'll include a few key pieces in this newsletter.

What we’ve been reading

Anna Valero and John Van Reenen from LSE's Centre for Economic Performance have published a piece in the Economics Observatory showing that firms are investing in new technologies to innovate their way out of the crisis. You can read a summary blog on the IFOW website.

This new report Frontline Fatigue finds that key workers – so critical to our national response to the pandemic – are stressed and close to burn-out. Less that a third feel the Government is doing enough to support them; though two-thirds think their employer is doing well.

The Resolution Foundation reports in its Pandemic Pressures briefing note that low income families are spending more during the pandemic because the measures they would usually take to manage are no longer available to them. Home schooling, social distancing, and other COVID-19 related costs have added to the financial burden.

The Health Foundation has made a particularly strong argument (which we support) that the government should make permanent its temporary increase to Universal Credit of £20 per week. Drawing on public polling, the Foundation says the move would help protect people from the negative mental and physical health impacts of poverty.

For more updates, follow us on Twitter: @futureworkinst.

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