Economic insecurity: The case for a 21st Century Safety Net
Our colleague at ACH, Richard Thickpenny, has been involved as a contributor with a new research report undertaken by the RSA. ‘Economic Insecurity: The Case for a 21st Century Safety Net’ delves into the present precarity of employment and surveys how economic insecurity is really experienced by workers.
ACH and Himilo are working towards promoting sustainable employment for refugee, migrant and newly arrived communities through training and advice for long-lasting employment. This new report highlights some of the challenges we are facing within the current employment market, and how vitally important training schemes and education programmes are to safe employment in the 21st Century.
Findings: What are the issues faced by workers?
Although the government recently declared employment was at a record high of 32.75 million, this report asks: is this really secure employment?
The RSA defines economic security as: ‘the degree of confidence that a person can have in maintaining a decent quality of life, now and in the future, given their economic and financial circumstances.’
The report responds to a concern that the British labour market is fragmenting into low paying, poorly protected jobs that cause workers to have anxiety about their future. In particular, zero-hour contracts limit the certainty and control workers have over their incomes.
The report shows that 24% of workers have experienced problems with income volatility and a huge 73% of workers are worried that their income will not rise according to the cost of living.
This demonstrates that quantity is not always quality within the employment market and although a worker may be in employment, it does not necessarily mean they have opportunities for job progression.
What are some of the solutions?
The report finds that where there is a shortfall in effective government-funded career-development programmes, we may need to think outside of top-down policy reforms.
‘The existing welfare system needs reform. It is structurally designed to move people into any jobs, even if they are insecure, low paid and offer little scope for progression. But to address this challenge, we argue we must also look beyond top-down policy reforms.’
In order to combat the inaccessibility of job-related training, therefore, it is important that training schemes such as those offered by Himilo and ACH offer this career-based training for refugees in an already troubled employment market.
CodeDoor and ACH’s Refugee Coding Programme aims to provide long-lasting career training through the provision of a free and accessible online coding course available to refugees, migrants and women. In an employment market driven by technological change, IT skills are in high demand.
Accessible training courses like this can be vitally important to break out of a cycle of low-paid, insecure work that does not offer employees opportunities for career development.
‘Faced with dramatic technological-driven change, we see a need for new kinds of supportive infrastructure that enable workers to have confidence in their current and future economic circumstances.’
A worker’s voice
‘Economic Insecurity: The case for a 21st century safety net’ really shows some of the challenges currently faced within the job market and the worries encountered by workers.
‘Some workers are also worried about the future - about inflation, about Brexit, inequality, housing costs and the impact of technology on jobs.’
These worries are not always heard, and the report shows that research, consultancy and policy should listen to the concerns and anxieties of workers if they want to create a sustainable job market.