These are my slides for a recent talk called ‘A Fair work recovery?’ given to an event organised by the Fair Work Convention.

A version of this article was first published by the Financial Times.

The significance of choices made in the midst of a crisis often get overlooked. During the first lockdown the UK government scrambled to invent a generous system of wage insurance for employees and income-protection for the self-employed. It could have sent all households an emergency flat rate benefit payment or targeted those in most need. Instead, the bulk of the new support offered was linked to past earnings. During this century’s darkest hour Britain turned to Bismarck, not Beveridge, for inspiration.

This represents a major rupture with the…

As the new real Living Wage rates get announced — £9.50 in the UK and £10.85 in London — it is a good moment to reflect on the impact of the Living Wage campaign over recent years.

For all the publicity it attracts, what do we really know about how much difference it has made? Sure, we know that almost 7,000 employers have signed up — but how many workers has it helped lift up?

That’s a tricky question to answer. Before now there hasn’t been reliable independent data on this.

Thanks to a new analysis by Nye Cominetti at…

It presents a unique opportunity to learn about the difference that asset ownership can make

With little fanfare the UK is about to witness a mass experiment in the extension of access to capital. Other nations may have sovereign wealth funds, and some have experimented with universal basic incomes, but the UK is the first to create a citizen’s endowment for all young adults.

From 1st September, those turning eighteen will start gaining access to their Child Trust Funds with an estimated average worth of around £1200. From now until 2029 around 55,000 young people every month will gain access to their accounts: the 2020s will, among many other things, be the decade of the…

As more workers are laid-off this autumn, the grim reality of meagre support will become clear

This article was first published by the Financial Times.

Resisting pressure to spend more on disadvantaged groups is seen as part of the job by battle-hardened officials in the UK Treasury. But stripping away benefit increases that have only just been introduced is rather different and doing so in the midst of an economic collapse would, to put it mildly, be something extraordinary.

Yet that is the course the government is currently on. At a time when many are talking about the need for…

Continuity and change in post-pandemic politics

“France in 1789. Russia in 1917. The Europe of the 1930s. The pandemic of 2020. They are all junctures where the river of history changes direction.” Margaret MacMillan, celebrated historian of the 20th Century, doesn’t hold back with the totemic comparisons. The implication is that the pandemic represents not just a historical punctuation mark between the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ era, but a political turning point too. One in which established economic and social settlements get scrambled and remade, as societies try to make good the failings that have been exposed.

Others see big ideological shifts in the wake of the…

Making sense of the debate on the pandemic and its long-term impact on politics and policy

“France in 1789. Russia in 1917. The Europe of the 1930s. The pandemic of 2020. They are all junctures where the river of history changes direction.” Margaret MacMillan, celebrated historian of the 20th Century, doesn’t hold back with the totemic comparisons. The implication is that the pandemic represents not just a historical punctuation mark between the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ era, but a political turning point too. …

If we are to have a Churchillian response to the crisis, let’s have the right one

A shorter version of this piece first appeared in the FT.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that the current crisis would result in daily nods to our foremost leader during a time of national crisis. Mr Johnson, a biographer of Churchill, was always going to succumb. And during the PM’s illness a range of lesser known politicians reached for Churchill as they strained to rise to the demands of the moment.

Some may mock but a better reaction would be to accept that if it…

If we are to have a Churchillian response to the crisis, let’s have the right one

A shorter version of this piece first appeared in the FT.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that the current crisis would result in daily nods to our foremost leader during a time of national crisis. Mr Johnson, a biographer of Churchill, was always going to succumb. And during the PM’s illness a range of lesser known politicians reached for Churchill as they strained to rise to the demands of the moment.

Some may mock but a better reaction would be to accept that if it…

The link between national prosperity and personal wellbeing is not straightforward

This piece was first published in the Financial Times.

Consider the good fortune of a country far richer than the UK. Its economy is more than £300bn bigger and its workers are almost a quarter more productive than Britain’s, enjoying wages that are typically £7,000 higher. Households are flush enough to spend thousands more on consumption, just as public services are far better resourced. This economy still faces deep challenges — including entrenched inequality, regional imbalances and climate change — but prosperity generally makes life just that bit easier.

Gavin Kelly

Gavin is chair of the Resolution Foundation and chair of the Living Wage Commission. He writes here in a personal capacity.

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