Low pay Britain 2023: improving low-paid work through higher minimum standards

Publication type



The Economy 2030 Inquiry


Publication date

April 15, 2023


After a decade and a half of relative economic decline, Britain needs a new economic strategy. And good work must be at its heart – an explicit goal, not a hoped-for by-product of growth. This is a necessary precondition for a strategy that offers a credible promise of shared prosperity in the years ahead, strengthening not just our economy but our society and democracy too.

Why is good work so important? Because at the moment too many lower earners do not have it. Their job satisfaction has fallen (in stark contrast to higher earners), even as the minimum wage has risen. Too often they are not treated with dignity and respect, with little or no protection from unexpected changes to the shifts they work and the wages they take home. And they lack many of the things that higher earners take for granted: the lack of adequate sick pay, for example, means illness is bad for the financial, as well as physical, health of low-paid workers in a way most higher earners never experience.

This paper considers what it would mean to put good work centre stage. It requires us to go far beyond the narrow focus this century on a higher minimum wage, because although pay is crucial it is far from all that matters. It necessitates a radically different approach to the trade-offs that are inherent if real progress is to be made: better jobs for some will mean higher prices for others. And good work must be seen as part of a route to achieving wider economic policy objectives – an integral part of an economic strategy that engages with what the UK produces and consumes, alongside who benefits from it doing so.






Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest