Why is this important?
We all believe in the importance of work, not just as a means of supplying income, but the broader benefits of work for an individual, their family and their community. However, changes to employment practices and the types of work available are driving up levels of in-work poverty.
A fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
Although some of the policy levers that can help address these issues are outside of the Welsh Government's control, it does have the opportunity to use its powers creatively to ensure that people living in Wales have access to good quality and secure work which pays a decent wage.
What we heard
In every one of the focus groups we held across Wales, we heard about a lack of job opportunities in the area. People told us that available work was low paid, and in some areas, including North West Wales, it is seasonal. People in rural areas also told us about the reduction in jobs that has occurred over recent years.
In addition to a lack of available jobs, we heard poor transport links create an additional barrier to employment. People living in both rural and urban areas highlighted the importance of decent bus services because the costs of running a car can be too high. Some of the practical issues were:
- a lack of basic information about timetables, prices and bus stop locations;
- the difficulties of shift working when relying on public transport at times when the service is less frequent; and
- a number of connections make the journey more unpredictable .
The majority of the Committee support the focus on regional economic development within the Economic Action Plan. The economic challenges faced in Milford Haven, are different to those in Caernarfon, which are different to those in Wrexham. If we are to make real changes to people’s lives, the approach needs to be tailored to the strengths, and challenges, of every community across Wales.
- We recommend that the Welsh Government works with the Chief Regional Officers to ensure that the regional business plans take into account the differences within regions, identify the actions that will address inequalities and benefit those on the lowest incomes within regions.
- We recommend that the Welsh Government reviews its Location Strategy to ensure a better spread of public sector jobs across Wales, and in particular deprived areas. This should include setting out how this approach will attract and relocate jobs to the strategic hubs within the South Wales Valleys, and to other parts of Wales, in particular those areas in West Wales and the Valleys set to lose EU Structural Funding.
What we heard
Zero hours contracts
“They need to be stopped. Awful things – cause people stress and anxiety.” - Service user, Swansea
We do not support the general use of zero hours contracts. The evidence we heard showed that, combined with low wages, they have driven the rise of in-work poverty. We want to see them only used where there is an overwhelming case that a level of flexibility is wanted for the employee. We welcome the Welsh Government’s approach to try to reduce the use of zero hours contracts in the social care sector and their commitment to use their financial power to develop the cultural change that will drive down their use.
- We recommend that the Welsh Government place requirements on any company receiving Welsh Government support through funding covered by the Economic Contract or otherwise to minimise the use of zero hours contracts. As part of this, the Welsh Government should support organisations to overcome potential barriers to offering secure contracts. As a minimum, companies should have to offer employees the option to move onto secure contracts after a set period of employment, which we suggest should be 3 months.
Ruth and Dave - "Senedd ceiling"