What Makes For Decent Work? A study with low-paid workers in Scotland

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The experience of work and its security and rewards have changed significantly in recent decades. Increasingly, large numbers of people experience work which is insecure and which is paid at levels which do not allow families to live above the poverty line. In Scotland, around half of the working age adults experiencing poverty live in working households.

This research adapts and applies the concept of ‘decent work’ in Scotland for the first time, using participatory research methods.  Devised by Oxfam Scotland and the University of the West of Scotland (as part of the UWS–Oxfam Partnership), and in collaboration with the University of Warwick, the research consulted 1,500 people between October 2015 and February 2016 about what decent work means to them. This summary report shows that there was remarkable consistency in people’s priorities and that they are not extravagant; they represent what many would see as quite limited expectations, and should be common practice in twenty-first century Scotland. But the research also shows that these expectations are much too often not being met. Decent work is something too many people hope to experience, or experience only partially, rather than a reality in their daily lives.