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Chapter summary: Work

Attitudes and experiences of work in a changing labour market

The labour market has seen various changes since the 1980s, with greater numbers now
in employment, and a higher proportion of graduates in the population as a whole.

The UK is still recovering from the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed.

Against this backdrop of a shifting labour market, our chapter asks how attitudes to work, and
experiences of it, have changed.


More have good quality jobs, though job security remains
elusive for some 

To count as "good" a job needs to have at least four positive attributes such as being interesting, helping others and/or society, and offering chances for advancement.

  • 71% of workers have a “good” job, compared with 62% in 2005 and 57% in 1989.
  • While 92% of people think that job security is either important, or very important, only around two-thirds of workers, 65%, agree they actually have this in their job.


Jobs are valued beyond their financial benefits 

  • 62% of respondents say they would enjoy having a job even if they didn’t need the
    money, up from 49% in 2005.

Social class and education make a difference to financial motivations to work:

  • 63% of those in professional or managerial occupations disagree a job is solely about the money earned,
  • Only 34% of those in routine or semi-routine occupations disagree a job is solely about earning money.


Stress at work has increased 

  • 37% of workers experience stress “always” or “often”, compared with 28% in 1989.
  • Professional and managerial workers, and those aged 35-44 are most likely to feel stressed.


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Authors: Stephen McKay, University of Lincoln and Ian Simpson, Senior Researcher, NatCen Social Research 



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