Effect of economic turbulence on the experience of work to be investigated in study

The experiences of workers will be investigated as part of a major survey led by Cardiff University and funded mainly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The Skills and Employment Survey 2023 (SES2023), which also involves researchers at UCL, the Universities of Oxford and Surrey and the National Centre for Social Research, will help academics assess the impact of an extraordinary period of turbulence for workers which includes the economic downturn, Cost-of-Living Crisis, Covid-19 and Brexit.

People aged 20-65 working in Britain in 2023 will be asked their views for the eighth survey in the series, which has been collecting data periodically for the past 35 years.

Homeworking, brought about by Covid-19, continues to be a huge feature of work. Researchers will investigate the extent to which employee preferences for where they work are being met by employers, as well as the impact the changing location of work is having on productivity, work intensity, skills development and promotion prospects.

The growth of insecure work and the impact of technology on how workers are managed are additional areas that will be focused upon. The relationship between workers’ mental health and wellbeing and the social usefulness of the work undertaken will also be examined.

Professor Alan Felstead, Co-director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD), Cardiff University, said: "Workers are facing some of the biggest shifts to their working practices for a generation. The Cost-of-Living crisis and current economic turbulence have quickly followed the global pandemic and Brexit. These have presented huge challenges as well as creating opportunities to develop new ways of working.

"Despite these seismic changes, there is still a lack of robust data to inform employers, policymakers and academics as they look ahead to the future of work. We hope that the Skills and Employment Survey will provide those robust and authoritative insights needed to ensure productivity, as well as employee wellbeing, are at the heart of decision-making on the future direction of work in Britain."

The last Skills and Employment Survey took place in 2017. Those findings showed that:

  • Workers in Britain were working harder than ever before. Almost half (46%) of them strongly agreed that their job required them to work very hard compared to just a third (32%) of workers in 1992.
  • However, risk of job loss was at its lowest level in over 30 years - less than one in ten (9%) workers in Britain in 2017 reported that they had a better than evens chance of losing their job in the next 12 months. This was half the proportion (18%) of workers who made a similar assessment in 2012.
  • Even so, insecurity had not disappeared, with 1.7 million workers reporting they were anxious that their hours of work may be changed unexpectedly. This figure was 2.5 times the estimated number of workers on Zero Hours Contracts.

These results have influenced UK government policy thinking on the scale of the challenges facing the UK even before the economic turbulence of the last few years.

Subsequent analysis by Professor Felstead, taken at the start of Covid-19, showed nine out of ten employees who had worked at home during lockdown would like to continue doing so in some capacity. Following this, he was commissioned by the Senedd’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee to compile a report for their inquiry into remote working.

Professor Felstead added: "This latest round of the Skills and Employment Survey takes in arguably one of the most unsettled periods workers have faced. It will be interesting to see how these latest statistics compare with the survey we carried out before all of these major changes buffeted the economy."

This latest round of research has been made possible thanks to a grant of £2.1 million of funding, secured mainly from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The latest from Cardiff University.