Katy Jones, Ashwin Kumar
We are stuck in a low-pay, low-productivity rut, with far too many people working in poor quality jobs, with barely any training and little chance of getting on. Dramatic growth in gig economy work has brought insecurity to the labour market in defiance of employment protections built up steadily since the Second World War. Underlying this crisis is the question of power. The balance between low-paid workers and employers has shifted decisively towards the latter. People feel trapped: trapped by the lack of options but, most of all, trapped by the lack of alternative jobs that offer a better future.
The state should have an interest in promoting good work, decent pay, and better progression: higher tax revenues and a happier population are two of the obvious benefits. But in truth, the state is part of the problem. Time and again, in its policies on unemployment, childcare, transport and skills, the state conspires to reduce the power of low-paid workers.
Katy Jones and Ashwin Kumar argue that we can create a world in which the state empowers workers: one in which the state is on the side of people trying to get on in life. However, they show that there is no easy route: it requires overturning orthodoxies and established thinking on productivity, skills, unemployment policy, transport and childcare. If the Beveridge report was about anything, it was about not tinkering around the edges: the big challenges have to be faced. To lift ourselves out of our low-pay, low-productivity rut requires similarly bold thinking – and hopefully this book makes a start.
Katy Jones is a Senior Research Associate in the Centre for Decent Work and Productivity at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has previously held research positions at The Work Foundation (part of Lancaster University) and the University of Salford. She has published widely on topics including youth unemployment, homelessness, welfare conditionality and skills.
Ashwin Kumar is Professor of Social Policy at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has previously worked as Chief Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Senior Economic Advisor at the Department for Work and Pensions and as an economic advisor to Gordon Brown.