An excerpt from an article for New Socialist discussing the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.
The future of work has moved to the centre of mainstream political debate. New forms of employment in the ‘gig economy’ engineered by digital technology are opening questions about work’s purpose and meaning that extend well beyond the parameters of a debate typically confined to technocratic questions about the relative merits of programmes designed to cut unemployment figures. And the prospect of a wave of technologies capable of automating a vast range of jobs is generating a sense of insecurity intensified by the swirling uncertainties associated with Brexit.
The labour market is trending rapidly towards less stable forms of employment. Self-employment is growing more quickly in the UK than any other EU country, increasing by more than 1.5 million since the turn of the millennium to 4.5 million, and now accounting for more than 15% of the workforce. Some 1.7 million people are in temporary jobs and around 1.1 million work are on zero-hours contracts (about the same number as work in the NHS) a form of work that has grown by more than 70 per cent since 2010.
Radical solutions such as the introduction of a basic income or job guarantee scheme have moved from the confines of the seminar room and speculative texts to everyday political discourse. Though proposals of this scope remain beyond the horizons of possibility Theresa May’s government is prepared to contemplate, the Prime Minister’s concern to position the Conservatives as the ‘party of workers’ following her Tory leadership pledge last summer to create a society ‘that truly works for everyone’, prompted the commissioning of a major report, the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, which was published on 11 July after a 10 month review.