To see how the UK’s productivity currently stands, a group of researchers from Cardiff University, Oxford University and University College London have recently completed a national skills and employment survey. This study (conducted every five years) collects data on what people do, how they work, and the skills they use. We spoke to 3,300 employees from across the UK, aged 20 to 65, who work in a range of sectors, to find out what they think of their working conditions.
They have provided analysis of productivity in Britain from a worker's perspective, skills trends at work and fairness at work.
Productivity in Britain: The Workers’ Perspective
Almost a decade after the financial crisis began, productivity growth has failed to recover to its pre-recession level. This report examines productivity growth from the workers’ perspective.
- Almost a fifth (18%) of employees identified changes which, if implemented, would make them a great deal more productive and one in eight (13%) made suggestions which contributed a great deal to making work more efficient. Even more (71%) claimed to have taken the initiative to make such improvements on more than one occasion.
- Channels to greater productivity are at their most effective when employees have: more autonomy to decide how to do their jobs; more supportive line management; more meaningful appraisals; and their views and those of their colleagues are heard.
- However, since 2006 these productivity drivers have become less prevalent, precisely at a time when productivity growth has been sluggish and the economy would have benefited from them most.
Skills Trends at Work in Britain
Skilled jobs benefit workers and the economy alike. This report examines the evolution of job skills, the changing importance of post-graduate qualifications and gender gaps in job skills over the last 20 years in Britain. Skills trends are contrasted with faltering technical and organisational change.
- Our findings suggest that the growth of skills demand has slowed and even reversed in some domains since 2012. Literacy and numeracy skills have declined in importance, graduate-level jobs have not expanded significantly, and required workplace learning and training have continued on a downward path.
- Against this overall pessimistic backdrop, gender gaps in job skills have narrowed, and in the case of graduate-level jobs, reversed. By 2017, a greater proportion of women worked in graduate-level jobs than men.
- The economy has faced a slowing intensity of technical and organisational change since 2012. In addition, technical change has become gradually less skill-biased over the period 2001-2017. In contrast, organisational change has become more skill-biased over the same time period.
Fairness at Work in Britain
Employees’ views about fairness at work are of central policy concern for their implications for personal wellbeing and for the desire to raise worker motivation to achieve higher productivity. This report examines beliefs about fairness among British workers and some of the factors that were important in affecting these beliefs.
- A majority of employees thought that their organisations treated people fairly, although only a quarter were strongly of this view. Moreover, two out of ten employees did not consider their organisations fair.
- Managers, professionals and administrative employees and those working in construction, finance and education were the most likely to consider their organisations fair. Women reported higher levels of fairness than men, while older workers had particularly low evaluations of organisational fairness.
- High levels of perceived fairness were associated with stronger work motivation, higher commitment to the organisation and a greater willingness to put in discretionary effort.
- While pay relativities were only weakly related, the quality of jobs and social relations in the enterprise were strongly associated with perceived fairness – in particular the control people could exercise over their work tasks, the helpfulness of supervisors in providing assistance, the opportunities to participate in organisational decisions and job security.
How good is my job?
The project have also launched a How good is my job? tool, by completing this quiz, you will be able to see how your job compares in a number of ways to those in similar jobs to yours as well as against the average job in Britain. Your job will be rated along a number of dimensions and your results will be shown graphically at the end of the quiz. It will take around 5 minutes to complete.
More about the project
The Skills and Employment Survey 2017 is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council, Cardiff University and the Department for Education with funding from the Welsh Government to boost the sample in Wales (ES/P005292/1). The project is hosted by Cardiff University and is directed by Alan Felstead (Cardiff University and Visiting Professor at the UCL Institute of Education) in collaboration with Duncan Gallie at the University of Oxford, Francis Green at the ESRC Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), UCL Institute of Education and Golo Henseke (also at LLAKES).