Britain in 2030

Stronger Together for better jobs and better work

  • Report

A stronger future for jobs and work

vs

the Conservative status quo

A stronger future for jobs and work

We want a country that works for working people, with decent, well-paid jobs no matter where you live and where good businesses can thrive.

With a stronger future for jobs and work, by 2030 we can:

  • Deliver a New Deal for Working People
  • Back British business to create the jobs of the future
  • Create a world-class vocational education system and apprenticeships
  • Give workers full rights from day one
  • Make flexible working a force for good for all

the Conservative status quo

Insecure work has skyrocketed under the Conservatives, with a decent day’s work no providing a decent day’s pay.

Under the Conservatives, Britain faces the risk of:

  • More income inequality
  • Rising insecure work
  • Missed opportunities to create the green and digital jobs of the future
  • Inadequate apprenticeships and training opportunities

A growing skills gap

Introduction

COVID-19 has transformed the way we work. For many workers and employers, lockdown proved that flexible working is an alternative to the traditional commute and day in the office, enabling working people to spend less time commuting and more time with their families. Millions of working people have recognised the benefits of being able to make their work fit around their lives and their family and caring responsibilities instead of it dictating their lives. Many employers have recognised that flexible working means recruiting and retaining the best people for the job and a more productive, healthier and happier workforce.

At the same time, we saw the enormous contribution that key workers make to our country, keeping us all going throughout the crisis and heading into work every single day – often at considerable personal risk. The pandemic also showed the incredible breakthroughs that can be achieved when businesses, trades unions and workers collaborate, as with the switch of production lines to make ventilators for the NHS at astonishing speed.

Yet we also know that COVID-19 has shone a light on the reality of work for many people in this country: a tale of insecurity and instability. The Conservatives have broken the link between work and security, with a decent day’s work no longer providing a decent day’s pay for millions of workers – many of whom are the very same people we relied on throughout the crisis. Under the Conservatives wages have fallen by £1,000 for the average worker while insecure work and zero hours contracts have skyrocketed.

The pandemic revealed and exacerbated the inequalities that define our broken economic model. The key worker heroes that our economy and our country cannot do without are denied the pay, security, dignity and respect at work that they deserve. Now the Conservatives are hammering them further, with the double whammy of a National Insurance tax hike and Universal Credit cut that will take over £1,400 out of the pocket of a nurse and £1,100 out of the pocket of a social care worker.

At the same time, workers’ rights have been consistently undermined in a race to the bottom that has left our economy weakened and working people vulnerable to exploitation from bad employers. This was shown starkly in the choice so many people in insecure work faced when they needed to self-isolate: between doing the right thing and staying at home or being able to put food on the table for their families. As we look ahead to 2030, we must address these fundamental issues for working people – yet with the Conservatives having restricted trade union rights, and now shelved their proposed Employment Bill, it is clear they will not deliver for working people.

Britain needs a New Deal for Working People: one that ensures work pays a wage that you can raise a family on, gives working people rights from day one on the job, enables trade unions to play a critical role in supporting them, and puts an end to appalling practices like ‘fire and rehire’ that drive down standards, pay and conditions across our economy.

We need to see our long-neglected apprenticeships and vocational education offers made fit for the coming decade, so that people have the skills and training they need to seize the opportunities presented by the jobs of the future. We know that the work of the 2020s will be radically different to that of the 2010s. People should not be left to sink or swim in that new world of work; everyone should have access to good work, that pays well, offers protection and security, and a work-life balance so they spend time outside work doing the things they love with the people they love.

 

The Conservative status quo

Over the past decade the Conservatives have broken the link between work and security. No longer does a fair day’s work mean a decent day’s pay. Even before the pandemic, the number of working households living in poverty hit a record high of 8.3 million – that’s one in six working households[1]. The vast majority of children growing up in poverty (75%) now live in working households[2]. While costs for working families have continued to rise, their wages have not kept pace: average earnings are currently around the same level they were in 2008, at the time of the financial crisis[3]. The average worker has seen their pay cut by £1,000 since the Conservatives came to office[4].

Even then, the word “average” masks an enormous gap between those earning most and those earning least. UK income inequality has been persistently high since the 1980s, with the poorest UK households having lower living standards than their European counterparts. For those families, there has been almost no income growth for 15 years[5]. Yet the top 1% have seen their share of income more than double since 1980[6]. That augurs badly for the coming decade – even more so when you consider that during the COVID-19 pandemic the number of UK billionaires rose by more than a fifth[7] while working people are being hit with tax rises and cuts to Universal Credit. The Government’s own Commission for Employment and Skills has said that if current trends continue then by 2030 many workers “will experience increasing insecurity of employment and income”[8].

Under the Conservatives the rise in insecure work also looks set to continue in the years ahead. The pandemic has shown the benefits of flexible working for many: some workers have been able to enjoy a better work-life balance, less time commuting and more time with their family; and some employers have improved their ability to attract and retain the best staff for the job. However, there remains a huge gulf between those who can work flexibly and those for whom flexibility is uniquely in the hands of their employer.

The so-called “gig economy” has soared in size in recent years, and now includes around 5 million people, or 16% of Britain’s workforce. On the eve of the pandemic, 3.6 million people – one in nine UK workers – were in insecure work, with 840,000 on zero hours contracts[9]. COVID-19 highlighted the personal cost of such insecurity, with many who lacked basic rights in the workplace – such as adequate sick pay – being forced to make the invidious choice of losing wages in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Yet rather than act to address these developments, the Conservatives have weakened trade union rights, failed to legislate to protect gig economy workers – despite recent landmark rulings in the Supreme Court – and shelved their plans for an Employment Bill. With continued inaction, even more people will find themselves trapped in insecure work, not knowing from one week to the next whether they will be able to pay their bills and feed their families.

Lastly, the Conservatives are failing to prepare British workers and our economy for the jobs and industries of the future. We know that the world of work in 2030 will look different to that of today. Government needs to act strategically, working with businesses and trade unions, to respond to those changes. Without that, we will fail to manage risks for working people: the Fabian Society’s Commission on Workers and Technology, for instance, has pointed out that the impact of technological change in the workplace will be disproportionately felt by workers in low-paying sectors such as retail and hospitality[10]. And we will also miss opportunities, such as the prospect of nearly 700,000 jobs in the low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030[11]. Government has a vital role to play in supporting workers to move from the old jobs to the new, especially given that 80% of the workforce of 2030 is already in the workplace today[12]. Yet under the Conservatives, the rate of people moving from closing businesses to new firms in the 2010s was at its lowest level since the 1930s[13]. Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservatives sold out working class communities in our industrial heartlands. We cannot have another repeat of that, with millions of people and entire communities consigned to terminal decline.

Enabling people to move to more productive roles can help break the cycle of flatlining wages. Currently we lag behind other countries, with Germany and France about 15% more productive than the UK. If we were to just halve this gap, it could mean a boost to household incomes of £2,500 a year[14]. But under the Conservatives the UK has had persistent gaps in basic skills and vocational education, with adult education cut almost in half since 2010[15] and the Union Learning Fund axed earlier this year[16]. Training opportunities in some of the most critical sectors for the next decade have been falling: health and social care student numbers down 153,000 in the three years to 2020, engineering students down by 71,000 and IT students down by 52,000[17].

Apprenticeship starts among under 25 year-olds have fallen by over 40% since 2010, with 188,000 opportunities disappearing altogether[18]. Those from the poorest backgrounds have been hit hardest[19]. Despite this, large portions of the Apprenticeship Levy go unspent: £1.3 billion is due to be returned to the Treasury this year[20]. The Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee offers no support for adults with a Level 3 qualification who need to retrain, and excludes a third of all current jobs, including a million “priority” jobs[21]. Taken together, this will make it much harder for people to gain new skills post-crisis, and benefit from the changing workplace of the coming decade.

 

A stronger future for jobs and work

We need an economy that works for working people. Where the working people who create our country’s wealth get their fair share of that wealth. Where working people can get decent, well-paid jobs no matter where they live. A country where people are treated with dignity and respect at work, with power and agency over their own lives. A country that rewards a proper day’s work with a proper day’s pay, and the pride that comes from a job well done. A country where we seize the opportunities of the future: where we provide a platform for good businesses to thrive and trade unions to support working people, with well-paid, secure work stimulating demand and further investment, growth and jobs in local economies across the country.

We need a New Deal for Working People, at the heart of which should be the commitment that workers have full rights from day one on the job. We should see an end to multiple different categories of employment under which working people are denied basic access to rights and protections such as Statutory Sick Pay (which should increase from its current levels), National Minimum Wage entitlement, holiday, paid parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal, depending on their status[22], with bogus self-employment used to exploit workers and drive down pay and standards across the board. It means strengthening workers’ collective rights through removing the restrictions on trade union activity so unions can support and empower working people. It also means the end of the appalling practice of ‘fire and rehire’, where workers are issued redundancy notices and then offered new contracts on worse pay and conditions. These bully-boy tactics are wrong: they punish good employers, hit working people hard and harm our economy[23]. Tackling these kind of challenges is central to the work being undertaken by Labour and our affiliated trade unions in the Power in the Workplace Task Force[24].

Flexible working should be a force for good for all workers, with working practices fundamentally changed so that work fits around people’s lives instead of dictating them. Flexible working has the potential to change our economy and the world of work for the better – stopping women losing out at work or dropping out of the workplace altogether, and ending outdated assumptions about Dad always being at work in the office and Mum always being at home with the kids. Good employers know that flexible working benefits them too, enabling them to attract and retain the best talent and foster a more productive, healthier and happier workplace culture.

All workers should have the right to flexible working. We cannot have a two-track economy where white-collar office workers work flexibly and other workers are denied the right to flexible working. Flexible working does not just mean working from home; it means proper flexibility including flexible hours, compressed hours, staggered hours and flexibility around childcare and caring responsibilities[25]. People should also have a ‘right to switch off’ outside of working hours so that working from home does not turn our homes into 24/7 offices, and workers can enjoy downtime with their families. Workers in Britain should have secure employment, access to trade union representation, and regular and predictable working hours so they can plan their lives around a stable job and a decent income that you can raise a family on – which should start right now by raising the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour.

We also need an economy in which British businesses are backed to create the jobs of the future and workers in Britain are ready to take them up. We need new businesses springing up in every part of the country, able to access the support and finance they need to get off the ground because the Government is delivering an industrial strategy that provides a platform for investment and growth and good, well-paid, unionised work in every part of the country.

To take up the jobs of the coming decade, people in Britain need access to a world class vocational education system and apprenticeships – where opportunities to earn, learn, and develop new skills are available to all, whatever their background. Apprenticeship Levy funds should not be sitting unspent. The system should be reformed and the money got out of the door so that those most in need of training can access it, and so that there are pathways and support in place for learners to progress and to ensure businesses right across the country can benefit[26]. The same is true of investing in reskilling for existing workers, where the Confederation of British Industry estimates the potential prize from reskilling to be enormous: an 8-10% uplift to Gross Value Added, or £150-190 billion, by 2030[27].

Finally, our metro mayors, local leaders and combined authorities should have a major role in determining the training offer in their area so that it reinforces and supports regional and local regeneration and industrial strategies. This would boost training for low skilled workers and deliver a return on investment for business, supporting the creation of quality jobs and ensuring local people in every town and city in every part of the country have the chance to take them up.

[1] Institute for Public Policy Research, ‘Working family poverty hits record high, fuelled by rising housing costs and childcare challenges’, 25 May 2021, https://www.ippr.org/news-and-media/press-releases/revealed-working-family-poverty-hits-record-high-fuelled-by-rising-housing-costs-and-childcare-challenges

[2] Child Poverty Action Group, ‘Child Poverty Facts and Figures, retrieved 17 September 2021, https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty/child-poverty-facts-and-figures#footnote5_r0m6r87

[3] The Economy 2030 Inquiry, ‘The UK’s Decisive Decade’, May 2021, https://economy2030.resolutionfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/The-UKs-decisive-decade.pdf

[4] Labour analysis of Office for National Statistics data, ‘Years of falling wages under the Conservatives leaves workers over £1,000 worse off’ 25 August 2021, https://labour.org.uk/press/years-of-falling-wages-under-the-conservatives-leaves-workers-over-1000-worse-off/

[5] The Economy 2030 Inquiry, ‘The UK’s Decisive Decade’, May 2021, https://economy2030.resolutionfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/The-UKs-decisive-decade.pdf

[6] Nesta, ‘The Future of Skills: Trends impacting on UK employment in 2030’, 27 September 2017, https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/the_future_of_skills_uk.pdf

[7] Evening Standard, ‘Rich list: Number of UK billionaires jumps by nearly a quarter during pandemic’, 21 May 2021, https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/uk-rich-list-sunday-times-billionaires-wealth-rise-pandemic-b936423.html

[8] UK Commission for Employment and Skills, ‘The Future of work: jobs and skills in 2030, 28 February 2014, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/303335/the_future_of_work_key_findings_edit.pdf

[9] Trades Union Congress, ‘Insecure work’, 8 August 2020, https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/insecure-work-0

[10] Fabian Society’s Commission on Workers and Technology, ‘Sharing The Future: Workers and technology in the 2020s’, December 2020, https://fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/NEW-FABJ8359-Work-LONG-report-WEB-210203.pdf

[11] Local Government Association, ‘Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery’, https://www.local.gov.uk/local-green-jobs-accelerating-sustainable-economic-recovery

[12] Industrial Strategy Council, ‘UK Skills Mismatch in 2030’, October 2019, https://industrialstrategycouncil.org/sites/default/files/UK%20Skills%20Mismatch%202030%20-%20Research%20Paper.pdf

[13] The Economy 2030 Inquiry, ‘The UK’s Decisive Decade’, May 2021, https://economy2030.resolutionfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/The-UKs-decisive-decade.pdf

[14] The Economy 2030 Inquiry, ‘The UK’s Decisive Decade’, May 2021, https://economy2030.resolutionfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/The-UKs-decisive-decade.pdf

[15] Funding for adult education has been cut by 45% since 2009–10, which has mostly been delivered through fewer adult learners taking qualifications at GCSE level or below. Institute for Fiscal Studies, ‘Severe squeeze on further education and sixth-form funding in England’, 17 September 2018, https://ifs.org.uk/publications/13307

[16] The Guardian, ‘UK ministers accused of ‘settling scores’ by axing union adult learning fund’, 6 February 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/feb/06/uk-ministers-accused-of-settling-scores-by-axing-union-adult-learning-fund

[17] Department for Education, ‘Further education and skills subject- latest headline summary’, showing change in further education student numbers 2017/18 – 2019/20, https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/fast-track/323c4c9d-ac77-4070-a466-ab73b89fb7ab

[18] Department for Education, ‘Subjects and levels – learner demographics’ from ‘Apprenticeships and traineeships’, 21 April 2021, https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/permalink/b55a1116-e5b8-4741-8ec0-342abbcac711

[19] Starts among those from the poorest backgrounds have fallen by more than 50% in five years. Department for Education, ‘’Learner characteristics – deprivation by starts’ from ‘Apprenticeships and traineeships’, 23 April 2021, https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/permalink/45fce6f9-98f9-457a-b56c-76c9917184c4

[20] Parliamentary written questions and answers, ‘Apprentices: Finance’, 19 July 2021, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-07-13/32387

[21] Labour Party, ‘Nearly one million priority jobs excluded from Lifetime Skills Guarantee as Queen’s Speech fails to deliver opportunities’, 12 May 2021,  https://labour.org.uk/press/nearly-one-million-priority-jobs-excluded-from-lifetime-skills-guarantee-as-queens-speech-fails-to-deliver-opportunities/

[22] Labour Party, ‘Labour announces policy to create a single status of ‘worker’ with rights from day one’, 26 July 2021, https://labour.org.uk/press/labour-announces-policy-to-create-a-single-status-of-worker-with-rights-from-day-one/

[23] Trades Union Congress, Keir Starmer’s speech to TUC Congress 2020, 15 September 2020, https://www.tuc.org.uk/speeches/labour-leader-keir-starmers-speech-tuc-congress

[24] Labourlist, ‘Exclusive: Andy McDonald launches ‘workplace power’ taskforce with unions’, 10 February 2021, https://labourlist.org/2021/02/exclusive-andy-mcdonald-launches-workplace-power-taskforce-with-unions/

[25] Labour Party, ‘Labour unveils plans to make flexible working “a force for good” for all workers’, 27 July 2021, https://labour.org.uk/press/embargoed-labour-unveils-plans-to-make-flexible-working-a-force-for-good-for-all-workers/

[26] Labour Party, Kate Green speaks at the International Skills Summit, 19 May 2021, https://labour.org.uk/press/kate-green-speaks-at-the-international-skills-summit/

[27] Confederation of British Industry, ‘Learning for Life: Funding a world-class adult education system’, October 2020, https://www.cbi.org.uk/media/5723/learning-for-life-report.pdf