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Better jobs 'top priority' for levelling up UK

Levelling up
Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities. The government is to publoish its levelling up white paper on Wednesday. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty

More and better jobs are the top priorities for Brits when it comes to the government's strategy to level up the UK, according to a new survey by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Half (49%) of the British public think increasing the number and quality of jobs available should be front and centre of the plan for levelling up, according to the poll of 1,656 UK adults.

This is a popular opinion across the political spectrum as 49% of those who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election want more and better jobs, along with 56% Labour voters 54% of Liberal Democrat voters.

Older people also want the government to focus on jobs as 52% of those aged over 65 supported better jobs to level up the UK.

Some 3.6 million working people are in insecure work in the UK and the size of the gig economy has almost tripled over the past five years, according to separate research by the TUC.

One million children in key worker households live in poverty, the TUC said, highlighting the impact of low-paid and insecure work in the UK.

Read more: COVID hits youth employment as young people return to insecure jobs

Two in five (40%) Brits said the government should prioritise investment for levelling up in areas where lots of people live in poverty, while 30% said areas with mostly low wage, insecure work should be prioritised. A further 30% want the government to focus on areas with high levels of unemployment.

Over a third (35%) of Brits thought upgrading transport infrastructure should be levelling up priorities and 33% supported improving high streets and towns.

The TUC is calling on the government to deliver its "long-awaited" employment bill and put an end to insecure work by banning zero hours contracts and giving workers greater rights — including greater union access to workplaces.

The union body also wants the government to "invest in good green jobs in industries of the future and give key workers the decent pay rise they deserve”.

“Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work and paid a wage they can live on. But for too many in the UK, work isn’t paying the bills," said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

“After more than a decade of lost pay and with the cost-of-living crisis taking its toll, it’s time ministers got their priorities right. We can’t level up the country without levelling up work.

Read more: NHS and other key workers face year of poor pay, TUC warns

“The public has spoken. They want better jobs in every corner of the country.

“The key test for the government’s white paper is whether it will set out a plan for decent work across the country."

The research comes as the government prepares to publish its levelling up white paper on Wednesday.

Watch: Boris Johnson risks losing 'red wall' seats if he does not focus on levelling up