Imperial College London

Report: The Good Work Monitor


Dr Jonathan Clarke

Dr Jonathan Clarke

Congratulations to Dr Jonathan Clarke who contributed to a recently published report by the Institute for the Future of Work.

Across England, the COVID-19 pandemic produced widespread disruption to employers and employees alike. Working from home has become the norm for many, while millions of people in employment were furloughed and others faced redundancy. While many of these changes may be temporary, the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to lasting changes in how work is done in England, by whom and where.

In the ‘Good Work Monitor’ report, the Institute for the Future of Work, in collaboration with Opinium, the UCL Centre for Global Health Economics and the Centre for Mathematics of Precision Healthcare (CMPH) in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London create the first single and holistic measure of the availability of good work in each local authority area of England outside London. Dr Jonathan Clarke, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in CMPH, is one of the co-authors of this report which was presented as to the House of Lords Select Committee on COVID-19 on 28th January 2021.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of good work varied greatly across England, with the best performing local authorities being found in the high-technology hubs of the M4 corridor west of London, while towns and cities historically reliant on heavy industry in the North and Midlands have the least availability of good work nationally.

The report shows that it is the areas with the most available good work that have fared best during the pandemic, both economically and in the direct health-related impact of COVID-19 on their residents. Consequently, while the impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the entire country, its economic impact may widen extensive pre-existing disparities in the availability of good work.

Applying Markov Stability, an unsupervised graph-based clustering technique developed by the group of Prof Mauricio Barahona in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial, the report identifies four labour market archetypes based on the characteristics of employment making up the Good Work Monitor (as shown in Fig. 3 of the report). Through the application of this technique it was possible to characterise a complex socio-economic landscape into discrete populations whose relationships to good work are similar to one another, and may face similar economic challenges.

Purely based on socio-economic data, and without using prior geographic knowledge, the industrial towns of the North and Midlands emerge as collectively having low access to good work, higher levels of unemployment and low pay. In contrast, ‘Good Work Winners’ emerge around the conurbations of England, particularly in the Home Counties around London with access to higher paying, more secure employment, and is associated with a life expectancy five years higher than those in northern towns.

The application of Markov Stability to the study of labour markets in England has created an opportunity to characterise regional similarities and differences in a way that emphasises the need to develop tailored solutions to local problems while learning from the experiences of localities facing similar challenges.



Anna Radomska

Anna Radomska
Department of Mathematics