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There is now significant consensus across political parties in the UK about the need to address job quality, not just job quantity. Greater policy focus on good work and job quality across the political spectrum is partially related to labour market experiences of job insecurity for many employees in lower-paid jobs.

What is good work?

Despite the challenges of defining good work in different international country contexts, there are signs of some emerging consensus on the main dimensions of good work in the UK, which include wages, employment quality, education and training, working conditions, work-life balance and collective participation and collective representation. Bad work, on the other hand, is employment where many dimensions of good work above are absent or weak.

Good work in the UK and Europe

In the UK, around 65% of women and 69% of men were in quality work in 2018, but there was variation between age groups, localities, and ethnic groups. The Good Work Monitor observes that the coronavirus pandemic affected people and places with the lowest levels of quality work the most.  In particular, lack of good work options closely correlated with poor health outcomes like COVID-related illness and mortality during the pandemic.

In the EU,  working conditions have generally improved since 2000, with working time quality and physical working environment improving significantly. Jobs now require more skills and provide more autonomy than previously.

Policies on good work


Recent UK Government policy focus on good work and job quality has been on responses to the Taylor Review of modern working practices published in July 2017. The Taylor Review made various recommendations on workers’ rights, covering matters including agency workers’ rights, employment status, the enforcement of employment rights, maternity discrimination and zero-hours contracts.

The Government’s response to the Taylor review was outlined in the Good Work Plan published in December 2018. In May 2022 the Prime Minister has asked Conservative MP Matt Warman to lead another review into the future of work. Part of the Terms of Reference for this review is to explore the role of local labour markets in facilitating access to good jobs in relation to levelling-up.

Devolved nations and city-regions

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland support various policy measures aimed at advancing good work, like The Fair Work Convention , established by the Scottish Government in 2015, the  Fair Work Commission established by the Welsh Government in 2018, and commitments in Northern Ireland’s  ‘New Decade New Approach (PDF)’ agreement focusing on creating good jobs and protecting workers rights.

As well as this, some devolved English city-regions have voluntary good employment/fair work charters, which outline the main elements of good work, like a real living wage, job design, skills development, and support local employers to establish them through encouraging best practice.

European countries

A number of countries have developed a collaborative social partnership approach in response to disruption of the labour market: the Danish Disruption Council, The Californian Future of Work Commission, Germany’s Industry 4.0., the Swedish Job Security Council, the New Zealand Future of Work Forum.

Ideas for good work policy reforms

Section four of this paper outlines research on new policy thinking, ideas and recommendations on good work. This includes extending good work in the Foundational Economy and presenting a new social contract for good work, and good work in new green jobs in the context of just transition and climate change.

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