20% of Brits fear the elbow

One in five UK workers are fearful for their jobs. Is that with good reason?

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
This grim picture of insecurity comes from quarterly research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which surveyed 2,000 British workers and found that a fifth had the collywobbles about their futures. That figure rises to a third among those in the public sector.

More than half of the respondents also said that their employer had either frozen or cut pay. All of which may not come as a surprise: these days it’d be far more shocking to learn that employers had been ramping up wages in a rush of impulsive altruism, or that they’re paying people who were so sure of their job security that they’d decided not to bother turning up two days a week.

But it’s never good to see the mood quantified like this, and the tone does contradict the more positive impression given last week, at least in the private sector, by the Reed Job Index, which stated that recruitment opportunities were actually up.

Yet the insecurities are there, and it seems they don’t end with having a job. Almost a third of those surveyed said their standard of living had got worse over the last six months. This compares with just 10% who said it had got better. We’d like to meet them. For most, such concerns are only going to be more prevalent as inflation erodes wages’ real value - especially if salaries aren’t rising or, worse, are being cut.

Sadly such woes may not be a simple case of misplaced paranoia. Figures out today from the Insolvency Service say a record number of individuals were declared insolvent in England and Wales last year. That’s a total of 135,089 – 0.7% up on 2009, and a staggering twice as many as in 2005.

The good news is there’s been a steep decline in the number of companies going bust – to 4,905, or 23% down on 2009. So perhaps that’s a sign of a turnaround? Could it be that people’s jobs are safer than they think?

If that’s not the case, then it’s hard to know the solution. Cynics may reach the rather heartless conclusion that such insecurities are just the inevitable consequence of our current fiscal difficulties, a rough patch that has to be endured before we can come out into something better.

Yet the CIPD reckons managers have a part to play. They ‘need to find cost-effective ways of equipping their line managers with the people management skills to support employee engagement and wellbeing,’ said a CIPD spokesman. We think that means telling them to keep their chins up, put their shoulders to the wheel and keep smiling. Which is all well and good. But teaching people to tell staff not to worry isn’t going to help much if their job does end up going down the pan.

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