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A Professor at the University of Chester has been awarded a prestigious research grant to conduct an internationally ground-breaking project to re-think what counts as ‘decent work’, using innovative collaborative processes with policy makers and disadvantaged university students in Vietnam.

The British Academy-funded project directly tackles ‘decent work’ as a one of the most significant global challenges, as recognised in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Although work is recognised as being a direct way to tackle poverty, inequality, and health, some forms can be so informal and unpredictable, it can have destructive effects on these areas. Chester joins Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh universities in winning grants.

Although the need to re-think what ‘decent work’ is and how to achieve it through policy intervention is a global challenge, the scale of the challenge in developing countries is stark; graduate employability is significantly lower than developed countries, and the proportion of graduates in informal and temporary work is much higher.

The destructive effects of COVID-19 on employment are already being seen across the world, especially affecting those in informal and flexible employments, so the project will generate new insight into how we should change how we organise employment in a post-COVID-19 world. For example, the type of work that is offered, how long that work is offered, and how much is paid – each of these affect the ability for workers to sustain a living for their families.

Professor Tony Wall, Principal Investigator of the project, and Dr Ann Hindley, Postdoctoral Researcher from the International Centre for Thriving at the University of Chester, join three research teams in Vietnam: Dr Nga Thi Hang Ngo at Tay Bac University, Dr Ho Thi Hanh Tien at Phu Xuan University, and Dr Phuong M Luong at Hanoi University.

The voice of young people and students is at the heart of the project; not only is it partly governed by a Youth Advisory Panel, but the research teams include a range of student researchers who will be mentored by experienced researchers.

The project will undertake a national survey about the work and informal practices that are used to earn a living, which will inform how decent work can be re-thought.

Professor Wall explains that the innovative research approach adopted during the project will then “bring together people not normally around the table to use positive, appreciative dialogue to literally re-vision what decent work is and how to get there through employment, education, and other policy instruments”.

The project will then create new guidance in relation to decent work for policy makers in government, international agencies, and employers.

The project builds upon the work of Professor Wall and the wider research team at the University of Chester who have been part of the leadership team of the United Nations’ Encyclopedia of the Sustainable Development Goals, the largest project of its kind with 17 volumes, 1,700 chapters, and over 3,000 authors around the world. The ‘Decent Work’ volume with 100 chapters will be available later in 2020.

Professor Kurt Allman, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management, said: “This work explores some of the most pressing concerns for communities, policy makers and ethical businesses. Creating a dialogue with these participants will enable fresh insights and create opportunity for positive change.”

The University’s International Centre for Thriving is a global scale collaboration between business, arts, health, and education to deliver sustainable transformation. It advises, consults, and co-creates organisational development and change programmes to build resilience, wellbeing, and to deliver sustainable change.

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