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UK job satisfaction at a low ebb, reveals NatCen survey


Job satisfaction and work-life satisfaction are lower in Britain than in most other European countries and one in five UK workers (22%) have taken a pay cut in the past three years, according to NatCen.

The independent UK social research agency today launched the 29th annual edition of its British Social Attitudes Report, based on its own research and that of the European Social Survey.

Low British levels of satisfaction with job and work-life balance are only exceeded by Portugal, Russia and five ex-Communist countries. The survey attributes the UK figures to the longer (unpaid) working hours culture: just under half of employees worked overtime in a typical week, with 44% of it unpaid, according to the Work-Life Balance Employee Survey carried out by NatCen for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in July this year.

Of the 22% who have had a pay cut in the past three years, men who work full-time (25%) are more likely than women to have had to take a pay cut (16%). However, men have become more likely to feel that their advancement opportunities are good (increasing from 40% in 2004 to 47% in 2010), while women have become less likely to feel this way (down from 48% in 2004 to 42% in 2010).

On the other hand, women’s assessment of their ‘level of control’ over their daily work has increased from an average of 6.9 in 2004 to 7.2 in 2010 – the same as men, evidence that the employment experiences of men and women have been converging in recent years.

Most people are not able to leave their problems at work: eight in ten say they “keep worrying about work problems” when they are not working, up from 73% in 2004. In fact, it is those at either end of the age scale – the young in education and those who are retired – who report the greatest levels of happiness.

People’s sense of job insecurity has increased: comparing 2005 with 2010, there has been an increase from 33% to 38% in the proportion who say it would be “easy” or “very easy” to replace them.

Another part of the survey bears this out, with more than half (53%) of all employees surveyed saying their place of work has experienced “a great deal of financial difficulty”.