It is a common assumption that job security has decreased in recent years. But a new study finds little has changed in two decades.
Spend any amount of time reading recruitment news stories, and you may get the impression that work in the UK has become less secure. But is this a misconception?
A new report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) claims that little has changed about the way we work in the past twenty years.
“Megatrends: Is work really becoming more insecure?” documents the way Britons are working today. The CIPD used multiple data sources, including their own figures and official government statistics from the ONS.
For the purposes of the study, all forms of non-permanent work (temping, zero-hours contracts, and self-employment) were deemed “unsecured”. However, the report does differentiate between each group – and concedes that some are more susceptible to exploitation than others. The CIPD found that the “very significant majority” of freelancers had chosen their own career path. In contrast, 35 per cent of zero-hours contractors were not content with their employment status.
The CIPD found that just 20 per cent of Britons currently work in unsecured roles. The figure suggests little change in job insecurity since 1998.
In addition, under-employment (those in work but who want more hours) has barely risen across the same period. Under-employment sits at 7 per cent at present – matching the 2002 rate. Under-employment temporarily spiked to ten per cent in 2011 in the wake of the global financial crash. It has since re-adjusted to a normal rate. And aspects of working culture have perhaps influenced the numbers, too. Today, with a stronger focus on work-life balance, it may be that some workers on low hours prefer their arrangement.
READ MORE: How highly skilled temps are changing the face of the UK workforce.
Why atypical work is not all bad…
In fact, the CIPD suggests that it is the “atypical worker” who is gaining most from the present working economy. The organisation has pressed for the government to step in to ensure a fairer deal for all employees. But it requests special attention to be given to those in permanent positions who are affected by low pay or discrimination.
The CIPD’s head of public policy, Ben Willmott, had this to say on the report:
“This report counters some of the common rhetoric that employment in the UK is becoming more insecure. On a wide range of indicators, the evidence suggests that, overall, employment security has remained broadly stable over the last two decades with very little evidence of any structural big increase in casual and insecure work. Increases in employment insecurity where they have occurred seem to be cyclical, linked to economic downturns, rather than a long-term trend.
“This suggests that more attention should be paid by policy makers and employers on improving job quality and workplace productivity across the economy to tackle problems such as low pay and discrimination, not simply on improving the rights and security of atypical workers, important though this is.
“The Government needs to outline in its Industrial Strategy additional measures to work with employers to improve how people are managed and developed. For example, through ensuring sector deals are contingent on plans to improve leadership and people management practices, providing enhanced business support to small firms and improving labour market enforcement.”
The report also provides tips for managers, and strategies for promoting fairness in the workplace.
Want to read more? The full document can be freely downloaded here.