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Workers More Pessimistic About Job Prospects Despite Record Levels of Employment


New research from the Institute for the Future of Work and Opinium shows that worker optimism has fallen, with a 5th of workers becoming more pessimistic about their career prospects than last year (22%). The research also shows that only a quarter (26%) of workers trust the Government to provide assistance if they find themselves unemployed.

Findings from 3,000 workers, weighted to be nationally representative of the UK workforce, show that 60% think it would be difficult to find a new job if they lost their current job, and 32% believe they would have to take a less senior job if they became unemployed.

This pessimism is more stark outside of London: whilst 52% of London workers say they would struggle to find a new job if made redundant, this is significantly higher at 61% for workers outside of London.  This is likely related to the amount of job choice available in the capital, with 51% of London workers believing they would have a lot of job options to choose from, compared to only 38% of non-London workers.

These figures come on the back of recent ONS employment statistics showing the highest employment rates since 1974, showing that despite record levels, worker optimism is in decline.

The findings also show confidence in the welfare state is low. While National Government was rated highest for who should be primarily responsible to provide support in the event of someone’s unemployment, only 26% of people said that they expected Government to actually offer support. Nearly 80% of people said they’d expect their family to help them whilst 68% said they’d look to friends and 32% to their religious community.

The research shows that female workers in particular have less confidence about receiving support from the all levels of the state in comparison to their male counterparts:

  • 24% of female workers say they think the local government would provide support, compared to 29% for male workers
  • 24% of female workers say they think the national government would provide support, compared to 29% for male workers

Overall, just 24% of female workers believe they would receive support from a job they had just left, compared to 27% of male workers. Another key gender difference is the emotional impact of losing a job, with women displaying greater anxiety.  Female workers are more likely to worry about not being able to support themselves financially than males (61% vs. 46% respectively), as well as not being able to get another job (49% vs. 38% respectively).

This polling comes as The Institute for the Future of Work launches its ‘Good Work Charter’, which calls on employers to ensure that their jobs offer dignity, fair pay and the opportunity to develop their skills and future employability through learning and development. This polling is part of The Institute for the Future of Work’s rolling programme of research and advocacy to promote ‘good jobs’ and harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution for all.

Anna Thomas, Co-founder & Director of The Institute from the Future of Work said:

“These findings show that British workers – especially those living outside London – are rightly anxious about job change and prospects through the ‘double disruption’ of Brexit and the 4IR. Confidence in support for worker transition – Britain’s next big challenge – is low. We need to broaden the conversation about ‘good work’ and how we get there. The Good Work Charter will embed a ‘people-first’ approach to transition and reassure workers that technologists, employers, investors and government prioritise future good work. The Charter’s principles-based approach will endure fast-paced change and help build on common ground.”

Jack Tadman, Senior Researcher from Opinium said:

“It’s clear from our research that many aren’t optimistic about, or prepared for, a future of work that could look drastically different to now.  The regional chasm between London and the rest of the UK is particularly striking, with the robust nature of the capital’s optimism towards the jobs economy not replicated elsewhere.”

The polling will be launched at the Institute for the Future of Work conference today where speeches will be heard from the Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP; the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP; Chair of the Government’s AI Council Tabitha Goldstaub and Naomi Climer CBE, the first female president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. A special message will be sent to the conference from both Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and Sir Angus Deaton, Nobel Laureate in economic sciences.


With over 15 years experience within the Recruitment industry, Mark considers digital publishing, digital engagement, recruitment marketing and advertising (all media), digital video production, creative design and more recently social media development as his core knowledge and where a lot of his experience lays.

Having been at the forefront of the digital publishing sector for well over a decade, Mark has founded numerous job boards and publishing businesses.

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