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Economic Wellbeing

Introduction

Economic wellbeing requires an income level that sustains a reasonable quality of life, financial resources to provide a buffer against adversity, and opportunities for satisfying employment for those who are, or wish, to be employed.

The relationship between income and health and wellbeing is well documented (Marmot 2010 pg. 74 and LHIN 2013) and involves not only employment income but, importantly, ensuring full take-up of eligible benefits for vulnerable residents.

This chapter of the JSNA concentrates upon the impact of employment on economic wellbeing, and on the measures being taken to reduce the barriers to employment and broaden available routes into employment for local residents. 

For those of working age, and increasingly for older people who wish or need to remain in the labour force, good-quality employment is not only the surest path to avoiding deprivation but has major benefits for wellbeing:

Work can strengthen social connections and it can provide a sense of meaning, purpose and value which are important for encouraging feelings of self-worth and satisfaction. (LGID, 2010)

The Marmot Review identifies 3 ways in which unemployment affects levels of morbidity and mortality:

 

  • Lowers living standards, reduces social integration and lowers self-esteem
  • Triggers distress, anxiety and depression
  • Impacts on health behaviour – increased smoking and alcohol consumption, and decreased physical exercise. (Marmot 2010, pg. 69)

 

The relationship between unemployment and poor health runs in both directions.  Unemployment contributes to ill-health, and poor health increases the likelihood of unemployment, and the two can become mutually reinforcing.

Being in paid work is not, of course, always a guarantee of wellbeing and many people in employment earn inadequate incomes and their workplace is a source of distress.

It must also be recognised that many people who live in poverty are in paid employment, but that this employment does not provide them with a living wage. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates 23% of jobs in the UK outside London pay less than the living wage. The level among females (29%) is much higher than males (18%).

In Bedford Borough, ONS estimates that 20.6% of jobs, equating to around 15,000 jobs, paid less than the living wage in 2014 (ONS 2015)1.

In the very worst cases, the workplace can represent a risk to health, with musculoskeletal disorders and mental health issues being particularly common.

Too often, though, the relationship between employment and wellbeing is viewed solely from the risks to health, ignoring the important positive impacts that satisfying employment can generate for individuals, families and communities.

This section examines key issues in the Bedford Borough employment market and looks at the barriers to employment which many residents face as a result of: lack of skills and qualifications; disabilities and limiting conditions; parenting and caring responsibilities; transport; age; language; and other factors constraining their ability to secure and retain employment.

It is organised around two areas:

  • Measures being taken by the public, private, and voluntary and community sectors to reduce employment barriers faced by Borough residents. 
  • Measures to expand the local economy and create a growing number and range of quality employment opportunities in the Borough.

 

1 In July 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the UK Government will introduce a compulsory ‘national living wage’ from April 2016 at the rate of £7.20 per hour for those aged 25+. This compares to the current UK Living Wage of £8.25 per hour (outside London).

 

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