From the TUC

Work is not always good for well-being

27 Feb 2010, by in Labour market, Working Life

Richard Crisp will be speaking at Solutions for a fairer labour market, a TUC seminar on challenging labour market inequalities as we build the economy post-recession. 12 March 12-2pm in central London. More details and online registration.

Government claims that ‘paid work is the route to independence, health and well-being for most people’. But research we carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that poor quality work does not always provide these benefits.

Many of the 180 people living in disadvantaged areas across Britain we spoke to are trapped in a cycle of ‘poor work/no work’ that fails to lift them out of poverty.

While a number of residents see the value of work in terms of increasing self-esteem and social contact, they often gain little financially.  One female lone parent working in Grimsby explained how:

I do struggle now, I work 16 hours when I’m actually £1.02 a week better off, which is really scary, it’s madness.  But the only reason I work is for me personally and for the kids.

Poverty-level pay also forces those in employment to work excessive hours. This can lead to poor mental health. One young man living in Anglesey told us how low pay, long hours and exploitative working conditions forced him to give up his turf-laying job:

I left last summer because the stress got to me, the big hours and all that. I was going to start jobs very early in the morning, I’d had enough.  I was taken ill really, I was on anti depressants for a bit, I couldn’t cope any more. Long hours and we weren’t getting proper breaks there, just make money for the bosses, just work, work, work.

These experiences of poor quality jobs show that work is not always good for health and well-being. The government is right to help people find work, but this should not have to come at any price.

There needs to be a stronger focus on the quality of work on offer.  Government and employers should work together to improve pay and conditions so that work really does have a positive impact on people’s lives.

1. The report: Work and worklessness in deprived neighbourhoods by Richard Crisp, Elaine Batty, Ian Cole and David Robinson of Sheffield Hallam University, is available to download for free
2. A supporting short film Lucky to have a job shows the issues from the perspective of residents in the Welsh town of Amlwch.
3. The report and film are part of a wider three year study called Living through change in challenging neighbourhoods. The wider project examines the extent to which the place where you live makes a difference to your experience of poverty. It is following the lives of 180 people over three years from 2008 to 2010.
GUEST POST: Richard Crisp is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University.  He has extensive experience of research on regeneration and worklessness and has worked on projects for a range of organisations including government departments, research charities and both regional and local agencies.  He is the lead author of a recent report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on ‘Work and Worklessness in Deprived Neighbourhoods’.

3 Responses to Work is not always good for well-being

  1. Tim Worstall
    Feb 27th 2010, 1:54 pm

    “While a number of residents see the value of work in terms of increasing self-esteem and social contact, they often gain little financially.”

    You mean that benefits get withdrawn when people have market incomes? Quick, someone alert the Chancellor!

  2. Adam Lent

    Adam Lent
    Feb 27th 2010, 9:36 pm

    The point Richard is making is that many people in work are paid so badly, they barely earn more than their meagre benefits. The fundamental problem is not withdrawal of benefits, it’s very low pay and the damage this does to people and their families.

  3. uberVU – social comments
    Mar 1st 2010, 1:13 pm

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