We should measure wellbeing and security if we want to create Good Work, claims the RSA

Job security, workplace mental health, and how well-supported workers feel by their employer, should be monitored annually by the government, a report led by the RSA and the Carnegie UK Trust recommends. The need to better monitor quality of work in the UK was called for in RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor’s 2017 employment review for the Prime Minister. The UK Government subsequently committed to delivering on this proposal; and Measuring Good Work now sets out a roadmap for how the ambition can be achieved. The report highlights that employment has a major impact on people’s wellbeing and quality of life, arguing that since the 2008 financial crisis, despite record employment, the overall figure on the number of people in work fails to account for issues like worker pay; whether employees feel they are trapped in a job below their skillset; are working too few or too many hours; or are facing excessive workplace pressure.

It identifies a series of new questions – from work-life balance to mental health, and from opportunities for progression to feelings of purpose, involvement and control at work – which should be added to the annual official Labour Force Survey, the largest and most comprehensive annual household study in the UK.

For £200,000 – a comparatively tiny fraction of government spending – the authors estimate policymakers would be able to gain significant new insights into how the changing workplace and issues like the rise of the gig economy and automation are affecting workers from around the UK. The proposals represent the consensus position of representatives from a diverse range of interest groups involved in the report’s development – including business, trade unions, academics and charities.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and co-chair of the Measuring Job Quality Working Group, said: “A focus on record employment levels and the quantity of work only tells us so much: we do not know whether workers feel happy, well-treated, have opportunities for progression, work the number of hours they want to, or feel they have control over their working lives. To manage this problem, we must measure this problem. By expanding the official and most comprehensive survey of UK households – the Labour Force Survey – we can get a properly comprehensive assessment of the quality of work in the UK.”

Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust and Group co-chair, said: “Employment in the UK is at a record high but there are fears that too many workers are in jobs which offer low pay, limited prospects and which ultimately do not positively enhance their wellbeing. The detailed measurement framework proposed by our Measuring Job Quality Group will help us track who in the UK does and does not enjoy good work – and provide a platform for change. This is only the beginning of journey toward improving work in the UK, which will need commitment from government, employers, trade unions and campaigners. We hope our proposed metrics will make an important and sustained contribution, helping the UK track and deliver progress towards the ambition of good for work for all.”