Andy Beckett is right (These strikes are telling us something: Britain’s era of low wages may be over, 16 Guardian). The era of low wages should be over, but not just because the cost of living crisis is driving the need for more money to pay the bills. Pay is just one of a raft of factors that make people want to work, that enable people to enjoy their work and that ensure their productivity.
There is a shared understanding that being paid adequately for what you do is part of feeling valued. The tired argument about certain roles being a “vocation” and work being something you do out of love rather than for financial reward is increasingly being seen for what it is – a transparent excuse not to pay such roles a fair wage.
A growing body of research demonstrates a positive link to productivity from fair pay, health and safety, job design and work-life balance. Matthew Taylor, in his 2017 review on modern employment, was right to argue that there is a moral case for raising job quality. There should be no room for Dickensian working conditions in the UK of the 21st century.
Prof Chris Warhurst
Director, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick
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