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Credit: Peter Eavis

Labour Market Realities: Insecurity, Stress and Brexit

Every month we seem to hear that the UK employment and unemployment rate is hitting record levels. The rhetoric we hear emanating from the government paints a picture of a UK labour market that is brimming along without any problems whatsoever.

The truth, however, remains quite different. Two-thirds of the UK's jobs boom over the past decade has been in various forms of atypical work and wages remain lower than they were before the financial crisis.

Our new research, released today, takes the voices of workers themselves along with those from the trade union movement to highlight the number of problems facing workers in the UK labour market.

Our poll of 2,000 people revealed that over half of all workers found their job increasingly stressful, one in three workers failed to keep up with the basic cost of living and over half deemed the state of the UK economy a threat to their future employment.

Obviously these headline figures mask over huge disparities - female workers, younger (18 to 34) workers and those on low incomes (less than £20,000) fared worst on a whole host of key metrics.

Yet, with just a month until the UK exits the European Union, our interviews with trade union officials highlighted how ongoing uncertainty is a breeding ground for exacerbating certain conditions. Workers themselves are much more likely to think Brexit will have a negative impact on their job in 2019.

There is an argument to be made, then, that the status quo on workers' right is unsustainable in itself. The problems we have - of overwork, of worker stress, of low pay - exist despite EU regulations which are more progressive than our government's own. Theresa May has pledged not only to maintain workers' rights when we leave the EU, but enhance them. Unfortunately, there has been next to no mention of how this will be done.

Our report has a number of key suggestions for improving worker pay, worker say and worker wellbeing. The UK government's 'Good Work Plan' stated a commitment to giving equal importance to job quantity and job quality. Yet we constantly hear about record numbers of people in work with little mention of the millions of workers who struggle to keep up with the most basic costs.

The government has access to its own statistics which mirror some of our findings released today. However these numbers are often buried in low profile ONS releases. If the government is to truly place equal importance on the quality and quantity of work, elevating statistics on job quality and worker wellbeing would be a great place to start.

You can read the full report here.

Work areas: Economy and Industry.