Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The dignity of full-time work

Labour must transform Britain’s workforce if it is to effectively tackle the challenges of the 21st century, writes Chris Carter

The challenges of an ageing population are enormous. Skills shortages, healthcare pressures, squeezed public services are but some of the consequences. Britain is ageing. Fast. One per cent of those born in 1908 survived a full century or more. Today, one in every three children born will live see more than 100 year life spans.

Population forecasters conclusions are damning: retirees will make up 25 per cent of the population by 2035. The number of people aged over 75 will grow from 5.4 million in 2015 to 8.8 million by 2035. Dependency on youth by old is nothing new and yet provisions worsen unabated.

Getting old is an expensive business too. With Britain’s finances set to crumble beneath the burgeoning weight of our aged, care spending will need to double by 2030. Successive governments failed to create tax receipts capable of funding state care and pensions. Even now, health and social care systems creak from lack of funding.

Public discourse continues to focuses rightly on immediate healthcare delivery. Without doubt, care reform is fundamental to achieve outcomes for patients. Though, the absence of debate on generating long-term tax receipts to fund future healthcare is palpable.

It is clear the long-term challenge facing the country. For too long, our focus has been immediate change in healthcare without focusing on future wealth generation. Immense challenge is the catalyst that brings change for leaders with courage to forge ahead.

Labour must build an economic vision built around wealth and thus, tax generation. In so-doing we can fund elderly care from solid financial foundations.

According to the Office for National Statistics; 31 million find themselves in work. Of this figure more than 8.2 million are part-time; a further 1.8 million left with no work whatsoever.

To put those numbers into context: one-third of Britain’s working age population are under or unemployed. If there ever was a time to use them substantively, it is without question, now.

Yet with a meagre 780,000 vacancies to go round; how do we improve productivity to accommodate 10 million workers?

The answer is threefold. Educate, empower and nurture workers to be the tax-paying middle classes of tomorrow. Diversify Britain’s labour market to be the bedrock of the economy and public finances. Innovation and export driven economics can only be as successful as the people who drive it.


Britain has skilled workers educated at great expense, £85 billion a year no less, government needs to work with business to cultivate them. In doing so, set out with the aim of reducing the number of part-time workers and get them onto full-time pay roll. The express aim is higher contribution of Britain’s 8 million part-time workers and achieve universal full-time employment.

Entrepreneurial spirit has made Britain the fifth richest country in the world. Though despite this vein of tradition, there is little support for employees who dream of being employers themselves.  Skills must form the basis of an export driven post-Brexit economy.

Executive leadership programmes; funded by university grants for employees who want to take up the challenge of founding businesses. The cost for grants is limited, when considering fiscal upside of successful enterprises.

Britain has the best universities in the world, grants and remote learning will allow employees to stay competitive. The benefit to both employer and employee is mutual. When businesses want to workers with the right skills, encourage them to look at home first and create talent.

The Labour party can transform Britain’s workforce with meaningful policy. A platform that welcomes growth in education in employment and in consequence our economy. Keeping workers to stay on ought to be priority as part of an enduring economic strategy. In doing so, set out with the express aim of creating a dynamic workforce capable of dealing with the challenges of the 21st century.

The dignity of full-time work, the opportunity to achieve and look forward to well-funded retirement. They are not some new economic doctrine; they are Labour values. We should have the courage to make the case for them.


Chris Carter is a member of Progress. He tweets at @ChrisJCart



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Chris Carter

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1 comment

  • But a lot of part timers have because of child (or elder!) care. There’ll always be a part time sector. Better raising the retirement age: 70 year olds are abler to work now than 65s were when the age was set in 1909, and they’ll still have ?20 years’ retirement, not 1909’s ?2. We could encourage them by offering tax breaks for gifts for grandchildren’s FE/HE.

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