‘Good quality’ jobs should be measure of industrial success

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There should be an increase in “good-quality” jobs and an improvement in working conditions if the government’s industrial strategy is to be a success – but this will require it to take a different approach, the TUC has argued.

Both local and national industrial strategies need to focus on the creation of high-quality jobs, skills development and new work opportunities if the UK is to manage a fair transition to an economy with greater use of technology, lower carbon emissions and improved livelihoods.

The TUC’s Industrial Transformation in Practice report says the UK has an “appalling track record” of managing deep industrial change and suggests that leaving change to the whim of global markets will deepen political divides and economic imbalances.

It says jobs in the energy, transport, construction, manufacturing and agriculture sectors – which together provide six million jobs – will all be affected by the move towards a low-carbon economy. Manufacturing alone makes up 10% of the UK’s economic output and employs 2.6 million people, with many more in industrial supply chains.

The report says: “Industrial transformation of the kind that must happen over the coming decades must be treated as an opportunity to improve lives and livelihoods – but this will only be realised if a
different approach is taken.

“Without an active state that is willing to set aside market ideology and work with people and places towards a shared goal, the crises that currently beset UK industry and many of the places that depend upon it are only likely to deepen.”

It says there needs to be clear leadership from politicians locally and nationally, with workers, citizens and employers given a say in industrial strategies.

The report highlights four critical factors for a successful industrial change based on transformations that have taken place in Spain, the Netherlands and Iceland. These include:

  • people feeling they are secure and have a stake in their local area
  • a strong social safety net to foster long-term opportunity in an area
  • opportunities for people to participate in decision-making, and
  • a proactive and positive interaction between state, unions and businesses.

It recommends that the government uses the availability of “quality” jobs as a metric for the success of its industrial strategy, suggesting that increased output will be of little use if working conditions decline.

To offset the impact automation will likely have on the manufacturing sector, it suggests the government sets a target of one million new high tech roles by 2030.

“This target dovetails with the government’s ambition to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and recognises that sustainable industry and green technology are key planks to delivering these new jobs,” the report says.

To ensure existing working standards are not compromised, it suggests that unions and employers work together to set employment standards that all employers within a sector or occupation must comply with. It also reiterates its call for the mandatory representation of workers at board level.

Skills provision also needs to be tailored to local demands, with the TUC suggesting that the government introduces lifelong learning accounts so workers have a personalised budget for training and face-to-face career guidance to help them access development opportunities.

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