22 October 2015
Research by Peter Taylor-Gooby finds that “getting people into employment will not on its own ensure decent living standards and reduce poverty”.
Taylor-Gooby is Research Professor of Social Policy at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.
His research shows that although employment is associated with lower poverty, other policies were more important: contractual rights, access to childcare, and policies aimed at reducing discrimination.
Taylor-Gooby notes how unemployment statistics is placed at the center of policy thinking. However, he says that the focus is a misplaced one, as poverty is about much more than joblessness.
Although employment is returning to pre-crisis levels, poverty among working age adults is failing to fall.
As we know, the majority of those in poverty now are in work. In a blog about his research, Taylor-Gooby says;
“Most of those in poverty live in working households. Among families the proportion in households with at least one member in work rose from 50 to 68 per cent between 1996 and 2013 according to the DWP’s Households Below Average Incomes statistics. The job market started to recover from its low point in 2012 but many of the jobs on offer are far from satisfactory. The number of part-time workers rose from 7.2 million to 8.2 million between the recession in 2008 and 2014, the numbers of involuntary part-timers from 0.7 to 1.7 million and the number of temporary workers from 1.4 to 1.7 million. The Labour Force survey shows a doubling of zero-hour contracts between 2007 and 2013 to 300,000”.
He continues; “The level of employment plays a role in ensuring decent living standards, but one that is less powerful than that of employment rights. The suggestion is that while employment is probably a good thing, if we want people to be better off, we also need to make sure that the quality of jobs is adequate. The best way to ensure that is to strengthen contractual rights against dismissal and to promote trade union membership. Recent trends in policy to weaken employment protection, to undermine the role of trade unions and to introduce high fees for access to employment tribunals move us in entirely the wrong direction. Shovelling people into low-paid jobs is all the fashion, but it is not the answer to the problem of poverty among those of working age”.
Read the full blog here.