The UK current performs strongly on job creation, with each record low unemployment statistic celebrated in the national media. But why do we not have any similar measures for understanding quality of work and how we can make work better?
The Carnegie UK Trust-RSA Working Group on Measuring Job Quality has brought together representatives from across trade unions, industry, charities and academia to consider the practical challenges of implementing national job quality measurement in the UK. Responding directly to the recommendation of Matthew Taylor’s Modern Employment Review and the ambition of the UK Government’s Good Work Plan, the report presents a measurement framework for tracking progress towards the outcome of good work for all.
The importance of measurement
1. There has been increasing focus in the past 10 years on the quality of work across the UK and the impact that this has on our lives. This in creased focus on ‘good work’ is partly driven by labour market trends that have emerged since the financial crash and recession, including stagnating wages and rising job insecurity for many.
2. In July 2017 the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices in the UK, commissioned by the Prime Minister, was published. Amongst the Review recommendations was a proposal that:
“The Government must place equal importance on the quality of work as it does on the quantity, by making the Secretary of State for Business Energy
and Industrial Strategy responsible for the quality of work in the British economy.”
3. Recognising that if such an ambition is to be achieved then ‘quality of work’ needs to be more clearly understood, defined and measured, the Review’s author Matthew Taylor also recommended that:
“The Government should identify a set of metrics against which it will measure success in improving work, reporting annually on the quality of work on offer in the UK.”
4. In February 2018, the UK Government’s Good Work Plan committed to enacting both of these recommendations.
5. Although it might appear a rather technocratic issue, measurement matters.
It is only by determining the different aspects and experiences of ‘good work’ and tracking progress on these issues in a robust and credible way that we can understand whether improvements in quality of work are being achieved or not. Measurement allows governments, business and civil society to explore why different trends are occurring and identify policy and practice interventions to deliver change where required .
The short-life working group
6. The Carnegie UK Trust and the RSA established the Measuring Job Quality
Working Group in Septem ber 2017, to respond directly to the recommendation that a set of job quality metrics should be developed for the U K. The Govern ment’s Good Work Plan commits to engaging with the Working Group on the development of this recommendation.
7. The independent Group brought together senior representatives from across industry, employee and employer representative bodies, academia, charities and policy organisations to consider the practical steps required to implement a set of national job quality metrics. Deliberations were chaired by Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive Martyn Evans and RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor.
8. The Group recognises that job quality is by no means a new concept. Some aspects are already enshrined in legislation, such as health and safety or minimum pay. Workers and their representative bodies have long campaigned and negotiated on a wide variety of job quality issues – from job security, to working hours, to
pay, to representation. Many employers regularly survey their staff on issues related to how they experience their job. There is a rich field of academic study on the concept of quality work, and many high quality surveys and research studies have considered the issue over many years. There is a lso important work underway
in each of the devolved administrations and at regional and local level in the UK to define and improve the quality of work that people experience. Our work seeks to draw on and learn from all of these endeavours.
What metrics do we use to assess quality of work?
9. Much of the focus of the Working Group’s activity was to identify metrics to assess quality of work, against which the committed policy ambition of improving job quality can be measured.
10. The Group concluded this can not be achieved through a single metric. As a complex, multi-faceted concept, which may require varied policy and practice interventions, different aspects of job quality need to be understood, and herefore
measured, on their own terms.
11. We applied the following principles to guide our discussions about what aspects of job quality require measurement at the national level:
12. Following a review of more than 100 job quality questions asked in existing
surveys and a process of deliberation and prioritisation, the Group agreed 18 priority measures of job quality, to form the basis for a new national set of metrics.
13. These measures cover the following concepts, organised according to the CIPD’s very helpful dimensions of job qua lity:
Capturing data on job quality
14. If job quality is to be truly pursued as a national priority, then the way the data on the job quality measures is generated must command the same confidence as national employment statistics.
15. The Group concluded that a cross-UK survey is the only viable way to generate this data, at least for the foreseeable future.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Measuring Good Work: The final report of the Measuring Job Quality Working Group