2022 – wages for lower income earners in the UK may rise, but so will work requirements and stress levels | Torsten Bell

DrDespite what some of the headlines claim, not all of us hate our jobs. I like it because I read great articles from the Resolution Foundation team, including one that didn’t drop job satisfaction and four out of five of us think our work is ‘good for others’.

But it also showed that these rates mask the decline in job satisfaction among low-income earners, whose work has become more stressful and intense in recent decades.

How hard it is to work can’t be measured in just hours, which is why new research examining how workers’ time in the United States is used gives us more and much welcome detail. It shows that not having “frequent time off work” (I call it breaks) increases workers’ stress levels. This is bad news, because over the past four decades, continuous working hours in the United States have increased by 7%, dramatically increasing stress levels.

Why is this relevant to the UK? This could explain why job satisfaction among low-income earners has declined, even though the national minimum wage (perhaps the century’s greatest political success) has increased and decreased their wages faster than the rest of us over the past two decades, driving down wages. Rates are back to levels not seen since the 1970s.

Companies facing rising labor costs due to large increases in the minimum wage have responded in several ways. The first, a new report from the coverage of the Low Wage Commission (which oversees minimum wages), was to increase labor intensity rather than increase productivity in better ways (for example, by investing in new equipment). So what is the mission of British politicians and British companies? To increase wages and reduce stress.

Torsten Bell is the Managing Director of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at Resolutionfoundation.org

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