Centre Write
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 15:04

Eamonn Ives: Future of work SRC reflections

At Bright Blue’s recent Social Reform Conference I had the pleasure to chair a highly stimulating and productive discussion on the topic of the ‘Future of Work’. My obliging panellists were Sam Bowman (Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute), Nick Denys (Councillor for Eastcote and East Ruislip), Anthony Painter (Director of the Action and Research Centre at the RSA), and Alan Mak MP (Conservative Member of Parliament for Havant).

What I found particularly interesting about the talk was just how much of a variety of opinion there was within the panel, and, indeed, the audience – which contributed splendidly, with a number of perceptive questions and comments.

Amongst the topics of discussion were a series of pertinent issues relating to the world of work. Perhaps as was expected, the topic of the ‘gig economy’, and how the tax and legal systems ought to respond to it, featured prominently. The impression which I got was that “überisation” of the UK economy – as one panellist put it – was not something to be feared, but largely welcomed. However, some did raise concerns about the implications which such a turn in employment patterns could have vis-à-vis workers’ rights or contributions to the Treasury, and that the Government will have to think wisely about how it approaches the trend.

As much as the conversation focused on the future of people in work, it also gave consideration to those who, for whatever reasons, are not. This accordingly brought us onto another topic which was keenly deliberated upon: both the merits and demerits of the possible introduction of a ‘universal basic income’ (UBI) in Britain. I think the panel all broadly agreed that UBI has often unfairly been eschewed as a policy which the Centre-right has deemed not worthy of debate, so it was fascinating to hear it receive such an honest and fair assessment.

Much else was discussed during the hour, from the need to maintain flexibility in contracts between employers and employees, to the idea that unionisation should be depoliticised, and reimagined as something necessary for the ongoing endurance of capitalism, and all of the virtues which it brings. The one thing in particular which I took away from the talk, however, was the unanimous agreement that work is, and ought to be, much more than a means to earn money. Rather, it is an intimate part of an individual’s identity, and acknowledgement of this fact will be vital as we move towards the future of work.

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