The way we work needs a new radical approach. This was the conclusion earlier this year from think tank, The Resolution Foundation. More than half of people on zero hours contracts were aged between 16 and 34, The Foundation’s report revealed.
Young people have been ‘scarred’ by years of insecure, low paid work and needed help. Shifts in the nature of work in recent years had disproportionately affected young people. Prospects of highly skilled young people were being harmed.
Work needs a “Better Jobs Deal”
The research, carried out for the think tank’s Intergenerational Committee, proposed a “Better Jobs Deal” to combat precarious work and to create better jobs in more productive industries. People also need to be supported to change jobs.
A quarter of people in their early twenties didn’t receive a pay rise for five years in a row after the financial crisis.
Many young people have been “scarred” by these experiences.
Young people are less willing to take risks in their careers that would aid national productivity.
The Resolution Foundation say that stagnant wages, insecure work and people unwilling to move between jobs all need to be addressed. This should happen sooner rather than later, before even deeper damage is caused to young people’s careers.
Financial downturn has left its mark.
Since the financial crisis and despite record high employment levels, the effects of the downturn are still being felt. In 2008 unemployment was as high as 8% yet fewer people under 30 are planning to push for a pay rise this year than in 2008.
According to new polling, by Ipsos Mori, for the Intergenerational Commission, more than a third of millennials haven’t moved jobs because they don’t want to take the risk. They believe there are no jobs with better pay or career prospects out there, or they don’t think they have the skills to try.
The Resolution Foundation believes there should be a range of new measures.
Increased job security, by guaranteeing rights to a contract that reflects the hours people have worked.
Higher pay for working hours that are not guaranteed.
The self employed should have statutory maternity and paternity pay extended.
Focus on occupations employing more young people.
Efforts to raise the UK’s slow productivity growth should focus on three low-paying sectors in which the proportion of young people has risen significantly. Retail, hospitality and social care.
For those wanting to move to a better job, there should be practical help. Such as with financial support for housing costs. For young people who want to progress within an industry, training should be provided. Training should also be provided for those switching into more productive sectors.
The Foundation said it will be years before we fully understand the depth of the scars of long-term, insecure and low-paid work. To assume these problems will disappear would be a “dangerous mistake”, it said.
Approach to labour market needs a “sea change.”
Stephen Clarke, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said the approach to the labour market needed a “sea change”.
“Too often our labour market policy is focused on the problems of yesterday, not the challenges of today.”
“Dole queues have been replaced by hidden insecurity and stagnant wages. The challenge is no longer just getting young people into work, but increasing the security they have in that work and giving them the confidence and support to move jobs if that’s what they want to do.
“The UK has seen an employment triumph, but we now need a ‘Better Jobs Deal’ to face up to new challenges. If we fail to adopt new approaches, we risk leaving a generation of young people struggling to get by and progress.”
10 months on from The Foundation’s report, have things got any better?
According to a joint project between Cardiff University, UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and the University of Oxford, which has been researching the views of workers since the mid-1980s, British workers feel they have less say in their jobs and are having to work harder than ever.
The new research, The Skills and Employment Survey, which releases findings every five years showed the latest statistics from the study. 46% of those questioned strongly agree that their job requires them to work very hard compared to just 32% of workers in 1992.
‘Work Intensity in Britain’, ‘Participation at Work in Britain’ and ‘Insecurity at Work in Britain’ reports were all part of the Skills and Employment Survey 2017.
The proportion of workers reporting that they must work at very high speed for three-quarters or more of the time, rose by 4%. It reached 31% in 2017, its highest level since 1986.
State school teachers top the list. Up from 82% in 1992, 92% of teachers now view their jobs as making them work very hard.
Unsurprisingly, not far behind teachers are nurses. Nurses’ have always been perceived to have much greater ‘work intensity’ than for other professionals.
During the 1990s 55% of nurses strongly agreed that their job required them to work very hard, but this had risen to 70% between 2012 and 2017.
What the Researchers say.
Research Professor at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences and leader of the research team, Alan Felstead, said:
“The survey offers some troubling findings at a time when real wages are stagnating. Our results suggest that workers are working harder and have less scope to carry out their job tasks as they would like.”
Francis Green, Professor of Education and Labour Economics at the IOE, said: –
“Work intensification commonly comes about from new technologies. [Which] make it possible to fill up idle gaps in the working day and pile on the pressure. But in the case of teachers and nurses the explanation is simpler. The intensification of their work comes from increased workload having to be completed during the time available for work.”
“The survey’s findings about teachers confirms the necessity for the government to take action to address the problem of work overload. [Which] is a major reason for low teacher retention and hence a drain on our teacher training resources.”
Job quality has fallen.
According to the study there have been further significant changes in job quality between 2012 and 2017.
The extent to which people can influence what they do in their daily work is described as ‘task discretion.’ It is the type of participation which has the strongest connection with employee well-being and motivation.
There was a 3% drop in the proportion of workers saying that they have a great deal of influence over what tasks they do. There was a 5% drop in the level of influence they have over how to do them.
More work intensification and reduced job control in combination is a well-known recipe for “high strain” jobs, which can cause workplace stress.
High strain jobs have become more common.
According to the survey, high strain jobs for women rose by 5% between 2012 and 2017. This left one in five women at an elevated risk of stress. For men, the jump of 4% up to 15% of jobs, took place between 2006 and 2012.
School-teachers reported 28% were in high strain jobs, and 72% reported that they always or often came home from work exhausted.
‘Work Intensity in Britain’
One of the three reports published, ‘Work Intensity in Britain, says, that if employers “want to encourage an engaged and committed workforce, it is important to design jobs flexibly. They should provide adequate support and allow more participation and task discretion.”
The survey summarises that the intensity of effort required in British workplaces has reached a new high.
The number of jobs requiring very high-speed work has almost doubled since 1992. Nearly half of workers are expected to work very hard.
More people now work to tight deadlines.
Also, New technologies that make it possible to fill up otherwise idle moments with work pile on the pressure, the report’s authors said.
Staff experience lower wellbeing because of higher intensity in work.
Warehouse workers for large retail companies face pressure to work fast from handheld computers that track their movements and productivity.
Warning from government adviser.
Last year, Downing Street’s adviser on modern employment practices, Matthew Taylor warned: –
“People who have less autonomy over what they do at work tend to report lower wellbeing rates. The same is true of those people working in high-intensity environments. As such, allowing workers more autonomy over the content and pace of their work, amongst other things, can lead to higher wellbeing for these individuals and increased productivity.”
“The sustained and widespread intensification of jobs in Britain is a modern safety and wellbeing issue. Potentially inhibiting the ability of many to flourish at work. [And] becoming a health risk for those who have low control over how they do their jobs.”
Around half of the UK workforce could be in the wrong job.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD, a professional association for human resource management professionals conducted other research. They say around half of the UK workforce could be in the wrong job, based on their skill levels.
People who felt they are either under-skilled or over-skilled for their job accounted for 49% said the CIPD, last year. 12% of workers felt they lacked all of the skills needed to carry out their job effectively. 37% thought they had sufficient skills to cope with a more demanding job than their current role.
The UK has 42% of its workforce qualified to degree level. However, it also has the highest proportion of jobs within the OECD that require no qualifications. The OECD has 36 member countries.
How effective are individual qualifications?
Some people felt that although their job required a degree, they could have done it just as effectively with lower qualifications.
14% or employees with a degree said they were under-skilled for their role. This compared to 10% without a degree.
Training in the workplace.
Despite this skills mismatch, almost a quarter of employees have not received training in the last year.
This was most likely to be the case for older employees, those on low wages and part-timers.
CIPD skills adviser, Lizzie Crowley, said that getting the match right would help employers tackle the UK productivity crisis.
“Individuals who report using their skills fully in the workplace have higher levels of job satisfaction. They earn more and are more resilient to change, while businesses benefit from a more productive workforce and increased profitability.”
“However, we have ended up in a situation where our economy isn’t creating nearly enough high-skilled jobs. The proportion of low-skilled roles remains stubbornly high. This leaves many workers trapped in low skill work, which doesn’t match their ability. [It] offers poorer pay and progression prospects and does little to boost the productivity of organisations.”
“There needs to be a much greater emphasis on how well existing skills and capabilities of individuals are harnessed and developed at work. [This can be done] through better people management practices and access to development opportunities.”
Crowley urged the government to use its Industrial Strategy Industrial Strategy to help companies prioritise better use of skills.
Her recommendations included that the Autumn budget includes an investment in skills development through the National Productivity Investment Fund. Better quality careers advice and more high-quality vocational routes into work. [And] formal training for line managers to ensure they equip their employees with the right skills.