SCVO welcomes this Independent and Scottish Green Debate ‘An End to In-work Poverty’, and would like to contribute the following:
Well-being through the economy
Creating material wealth for its own sake cannot be the driving force behind our economy. After a certain level is reached, further wealth has very little impact on our happiness[i]. Wealth accumulation in unnecessarily large sums gives people undue power and influence over society, politics and the economy the world over[ii].
We must use the economy, and the wealth it creates, to tackle Scotland’s social, health and income inequalities. Economist Thomas Piketty recently highlighted that government action can curb excessive inequality[iii]. As a country, we must make the security, health and happiness of people our end goal. Ending in-work poverty must be one part of this goal.
Decent pay and security
Not only are we seeing high levels of in-work poverty, but through UK working tax credits, we are subsidising pay that is insufficiently high to meet the cost of living. There are also increasing numbers of workers on zero hours contracts – 1.4 million[iv] – which often lead to problems in terms of job security and pay[v]. Furthermore, recent changes to regulation have altered various workers’ rights: for example, making it more expensive for employees to bring an unfair dismissal case against an employer[vi].
In Scotland people are most concerned with having work which is satisfying, secure, suitable and paid sufficiently[vii]. Increases in workers’ representation, whether through trade unions or through an increase in co-operative and/or employee-owned models of business, are one way to ensure that these criteria are met for workers.
Furthermore, if we are to improve our economy for all, decision-makers must seek to give all workers access to decent work (and insist that those who supply us with goods and services are also treated decently). The nature of work must be at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds when they seek to create jobs.
Many in our society carry out valuable work for no pay, including third sector volunteers and those who are carers[viii]. These roles are vital to society and the economy and yet are not well supported; for example, the current Carers (Scotland) Bill seems weak on supporting carers to achieve their own goals and to remain in work.
The value of a paid worker to an employer comes from multiple different places: the state, education, the family, community, as well as from the employer. To not value the contribution that the family has made to the formation of a citizen does not give proper value to the ‘work’ of that family. Therefore as well as considering in-work poverty, we also need to properly value unpaid work – whether that be through introducing a citizen’s income[ix] or some other means.
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Mansfield Traquair Centre,
15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB
Tel: 0131 474 8000
[i] Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence, Easerlin (1974).
[ii] WORKING FOR THE FEW: Political capture and economic inequality, Oxfam briefing note (2014).
[iii] Capital in the twenty-first century, Thomas Piketty (2014).
[v] Zero hours contracts: Myth and reality, CIPD (2013).
[vi] Why the Government’s introduction of employment tribunal fees has caused controversy, Herald Scotland, 20th March 2014.
[vii] The Oxfam Humankind Index for Scotland, First Results, Fraser Allander Institute with Oxfam (2012).
[viii] Carers Legislation – Consultation on Proposals – January 2014, Scottish Government (2014), p2.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector. There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.9 billion.
SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1,600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.
As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:
- has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1,600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
- our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
- brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland
- SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.
Further details about SCVO can be found at www.scvo.org.uk.