Good work is key to creating a sustainable workforce

Over seven million people in working households now live below the poverty line.

The simple fact is that when it comes to workforce sustainability, we need to think as much about quality measures as qualitative metrics when it comes to future workforce planning.

As Royal Society of Arts (RSA) chief executive Matthew Taylor’s employment review for the Prime Minister made clear, work matters now more than ever. It is the crucible in which we form our identities, make a living and build relationships. We grumble about it, we eulogise about it, we dedicate our lives to it.

Barely a day goes by without another story on the overall number of jobs that will be "lost" to automation. At the RSA, we estimate it could be as many as four million. There is no doubt we need to think about the jobs that will vanish.

For too many of us, work is far from a labour of love. More than seven million people in today's working households live below the poverty line. Pay has yet to recover to its pre-crisis levels a decade since the financial crash of 2008. And barely a week passes without another news story reporting the mistreatment of workers.

Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, the emergence of new business models, demographic shifts leading to increased caring responsibilities, and the competitive forces of globalisation are all trends that will further disrupt our labour market.

The RSA believes that a better world of work is possible. With practical interventions, thoughtful policy change and bottom-up movements, we can ensure that everyone has the chance to flourish in a vocation of their own.

Our Future of Work Centre will take forward the work of the Taylor Review, with an ambitious work programme exploring what sustainable work looks like today, what we want work to look like tomorrow, and how we use policy and practice to realise that vision.

In answering these questions we aim to get behind the headlines, unpick the nuance of debates, and canvass the views of those who can change the system.

But we also need to think about celebrating success. Next month the RSA, in partnership with Barclays, will launch a new global Future of Work Awards to celebrate some of the current global innovation.

We’re looking for employers, employees, unions, government and wider civil society to nominate some of the best ideas in giving workers more voice in particular. Get in touch if you’re interested in hearing more.


Benedict Dellot is associate director for economics at the Royal Society of Arts and leads its Future Work Centre programme