The Chancellor is right to focus on ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ in the 2021 Budget. But a focus on ‘good jobs, good jobs, good jobs’ would stop spread of the virus, build resilience and heal the sharp divisions and grievances we have seen exposed through the pandemic. Building the Budget around the creation of future good work, could turn policy into a vision and actionable framework to level up the country.
The pandemic has sharply brought into focus the differences in access to good work across the country.
This is having devastating consequences for people’s lives and communities, seen in a hike in mortalities, and in the shape of mass unemployment. We’ve seen the virus spreading faster and biting sharper through people in unstable, poor quality work who cannot afford to stop work.
A new interactive map the Good Work Monitor has also revealed a dark, long-term trend previously identified in the United States which is now clearly stalking deprived communities without access to good work – the increase in so-called ‘deaths of despair’. The fatal diseases of despair include liver diseases caused by alcohol, drug use disorders and self-harm. With depression and anxiety on the rise through lockdown, and 60% adults reporting their mental health got worse last year, this trend is something to watch closely.
It seems that good work is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. Good work has afforded real protection against the pandemic. Bad work, on the other hand, is associated with deaths of despair, as well as COVID mortalities.
As we look beyond COVID-19, the Good Work Monitor offer a framework to create and sustain good work for all – and measurements to guide and evaluate policy development at a national and local level. Work is the common thread that binds people, communities and society together. If we tackled the problems related to access to decent jobs which are fairly paid and offer fair conditions of employment, then we would also tackle the associated health inequalities.
To understand how the fabric of the nation is held together, we need to examine the threads that bind us. We have long argued that we need a forward-looking national future of work strategy.
Good work is plainly a public health issue. But its more than that – it’s part of our social fabric and communities too. Work shapes our standard of living sense, but also our sense of dignity and autonomy. It should offer an opportunity to grow and flourish, along with social networks and support.
It’s time good work became part of a mainstream discourse about tackling growing inequalities and levelling up the country.
IFOW would like to give special thanks to Good Work Monitor partners, UCL Global Health and Opinium.