The survey interviewed 1,000 employees in roles and sectors experiencing declining demand according to UK labour market projections. These were administrative and secretarial roles, agricultural employees, machine operatives and skilled trades in manufacturing, land transport workers, and sales and customer service staff in the retail sector.
Reflecting on the past five years, 67% of employees complained of shrinking teams and increasing workloads, 59% have experienced pay freezes, and 45% said redundancies have become commonplace.
Across these sectors young employees present a bleaker picture of working life than their older colleagues. More than six in 10 (62%) of those aged under 35 said they were holding out for redundancy pay before changing careers, with younger employees also reporting more pay freezes, shrinking teams and zero-hours contracts.
Sixty-four per cent reported pay freezes, compared to 57% of workers aged over 35. Similarly 65% of younger employees have seen an increase in zero-hours contracts, in contrast to 39% of older workers; and 58% said redundancies have become a regular occurrence, compared with 40% of older workers.
Employees were also asked about their plans to retrain for new careers. While almost one in 10 (9%) employees in declining labour markets have either already begun retraining or plan to start soon, around a quarter (23%) want to switch careers but don’t know what else to do.
When respondents were asked what they’d consider for a second career, IT and coding jobs topped the poll, with 12% of respondents choosing this if they were to switch roles now. Charity and voluntary roles followed at 10%, along with business, consulting and management at 9%, accounting and banking at 8%, and creative arts and design at 6%.
Mike Appleby, head of talent community at Learning People, said that retraining in tech should be a priority. “Ten years on from the financial crisis many employers are still in a cycle of redundancies, especially those adapting to automation. If you think redundancy’s coming it can make sense to hold out for a payout, but don’t stand still in the meantime," he said.
Speaking to HR magazine, Appleby added that HR should reframe the way it recruits to encourage applicants who are switching career paths. “It’s really difficult for employers. The issue I see in HR is that we’re often talking about talent and skills shortages, with job adverts often focused on specific relevant experience," he said.
"This means that a lot of people who are from different sectors are put off by the required skills listed. But we need to think about what these relevant skills really mean. Instead of focusing on what people have done we should look at what they can do."