It's money over happiness for cash-strapped workers

A survey suggests workers are so squeezed at the moment, they're willing to sacrifice job satisfaction for extra cash. The humanity of it all...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Back in 2008, when the nation was still wide-eyed and full of high-minded ideals, who would have thought it would come for this? For – alas, alack! MT hangs its head in shame – a survey by the CIPD has shown 54% of workers say their main reason for wanting to change their job is for a higher salary, compared to just 42% who’d do it to improve their job satisfaction. That’s a complete reversal of last year’s figures, which showed 61% would do it for job satisfaction while 48% said they’d do it for the salary. Set against Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this doesn’t bode brilliantly…

To be fair, you can’t really blame people for wanting a bit of extra cash – particularly given the average pay rise, which is currently something in the region of 2%, compared to inflation of 4.2%. Indeed, more than a third of the 2,000 workers surveyed said their standard of living had worsened over the last six months, compared to 29% during the same time last year. And for many, things have got particularly bad: 18% said they usually or always run out of money at the end of the week or month, while 18% said keeping up with bill payments is a ‘constant struggle’ and 8% are apparently falling behind with payments.

Having said that (and despite the fact that, for most people, it’s clearly not a priority), the CIPD says job satisfaction itself isn’t doing too badly (of course, that could just mean people can’t get those better-paid jobs for which they’re willing to sacrifice their very happiness). Its method of measuring it is rather convoluted, subtracting the dissatisfied from the satisfied – but the balance is currently +35, up from +34 during the previous quarter – so even if workers are poor, at least they’re happy. Although that’s not necessarily true of the public sector, where it’s fallen from +38 to +30.

Of course, job satisfaction has a lot to do with job security. So 35% of public sector employees are worried about redundancy, 5% up on last quarter. On the other hand, the private sector is, on the whole, pretty smug at the moment, with job satisfaction rising from +33 to +34; the number of people who feel they could lose their jobs has remained unchanged at 19%. It’s even affected the voluntary sector, with 28% expecting to lose their jobs, while job satisfaction is down five points at +39. And things must be bad when people who work for free are concerned about losing their jobs…

So after the double whammy of yesterday’s growth figures and now this, there’s no doubt going to be a bit of pressure on the good people at Number 11 to find a way to boost growth. Because the chances of those sacrificing their job satisfaction finding themselves well-paid enough to justify it strike us as rather slim…

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