“Good work” if you can get it – snippets from the Government’s new Industrial Strategy

Measuring how “good” work is for people is an innovative little aspect of the Government’s “Building a Britain fit for the future” strategy. More on that later. First it’s important to note that one of the key factors for success of any strategy is that all stakeholders will benefit from it. The danger with this strategy is that it may well boost GDP and productivity but only a minority will benefit from it. The rest of us will have to survive on low wages, zero hour contracts, poor environmental conditions and unaffordable housing. The “trickle down” theory of a strong economy will only work if it is well managed. There are some glimmers of hope in the strategy (including measuring “good work” – see below), which may mean that we’ll all start to benefit. If we all benefit and our wellbeing increases, then the strategy has hope of success. Here are a few snippets that address how the strategy may impact upon our wellbeing.

Housing is one of our most basic human needs that contribute to our wellbeing. Shelter from the elements and ensuring that our homes don’t add to environmental problems with inefficient heating should surely be key to building a Britain fit for the future. It is good to see then that £11bn of housing investment is included in the “Infrastruture” section. However, there is no clear statement of how many houses they want to build. There is no mention of any environmental standards or regulations for housing. There is however a brief mention that everyone will have affordable energy. In addition, there is a “general principle” to “aim for” resilience of infrastructure from climate change.

Clean growth – there is a lot of mention of clean growth which is good. Hopefully the headline that the UK’s green economy will grow by four times the rate of GDP growth will attract more business in that sector. The “greening” section begins with the commitment, “We will invest to increase the UK’s competitiveness in transformative parts of the global economy”. There is considerable mention of the cost efficacy of clean economy. The circular economy and air pollution also get a mention. This following statement is also encouraging, “We also want everyone to feel the benefits of clean growth, so we will work to create a future where our cities benefit from cleaner air, our businesses from enhanced resource security and our countryside from regenerated natural capital.” However elsewhere in the strategy there is a keenness for developing fracking, which seems contradictory to the clean growth agenda.

Good work – this is perhaps the most innovative part of the strategy. It is the bit that, if acted upon, has the prospect of making this a very successful strategy. The idea is that the government will start to “measure” how good work and employment is. It will use this measure to ensure that employers provide good work. The idea is still very much in its infancy and is starting with conversations with unions as well as the Confederation of British Industry, “This conversation will begin with the aspects that we believe are foundational: overall worker satisfaction; good pay; participation and progression; wellbeing, safety and security; and voice and autonomy.”

To summarise, from an environmental and wellbeing point of view, there are both positive and not so positive messages in the strategy. The measuring of “good work” is highly innovative and if embraced, will boost wellbeing for the people of Britain. Clean growth will also improve wellbeing with cleaner air to breathe, resilient infrastructures that don’t fail us in times of need and better housing. However, the negative aspects include the support for fracking, lack of detailed commitments on housing standards and numbers. In addition, the “good work” measure is only at “conversational stage”. Let’s hope it is not quietly dropped.

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