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WORK LIFE - LOOKING BACK 50 YEARS

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Two successive bank holidays give some time to think. Celebrating a reign of 50 years suggests a retrospective them...
Two successive bank holidays give some time to think. Celebrating a reign of 50 years suggests a retrospective theme.

In employment, the most noticeable changes have included the shift from manufacturing to services and the associated upgrade in skills as jobs become more technical and require a larger proportion of the workforce to be educated to degree level.

But perhaps the most radical changes have occurred for women in the workplace. Around 44% of the workforce are now women, compared with 29% in 1952. The pay gap has reduced from 47% to 18%. The proportion of women in professional occupations has increased from 8% to 42% and women are now in a small majority at university - figures from the Equal Opportunities Commission.

This is a social revolution. Although it is certainly not complete, this level of equality was scarcely imaginable a century ago. In 50 years' time will we be celebrating parity throughout the workforce for women and ethnic minorities?

Councils continue to be large-scale service providers. They still administer education, but one big change is the extent of hands-on interference from

the centre.

Perhaps the rise of Brussels and the loss of empire have left Whitehall with little else to do. But I sometimes wonder whether governance is much advanced by the existence of, for example, a separate department for education.

One might harbour the same uncharitable thought about the value added by the employment and social affairs directorate in Brussels to the efficiency of European labour markets.

Perhaps less has changed in the management of council staff. Terms and conditions are still much the same as 50 years ago. Grading of jobs has been devolved to local level, but national bargaining on uprating pay levels continues, despite fairly regular obituaries.

The focus has shifted from growth, as it was when Britain was rebuilt after the war, to getting more for less.

The professions remain extremely influential and few career paths cross professional boundaries or move between public and private sectors. However, that may be

changing as vehicles for service delivery become more varied through outsourcing and partnerships.

Looking back, local government may be the same in its essentials, but socially and technologically, change has vanquished continuity. Those involved with people management have lived in interesting times.

Tim Rothwell

Managing director, GWT Rothwell

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