Workers more pessimistic about job prospects despite record levels of employment.

Confidence in welfare state low.

Research based on the responses of 3,000 workers has found optimism has fallen, with a fifth of workers becoming more pessimistic about their career prospects than last year (22 per cent). The findings from the Institute for the Future of Work and Opinium also shows that only a quarter (26 per cent) of workers trust the government to provide assistance if they find themselves unemployed.

The findings when weighted to be nationally representative of the UK workforce, show that 60 per cent think it would be difficult to find a new job if they lost their current job, and 32 per cent believe they would have to take a less senior job if they became unemployed.

This pessimism is more stark outside of London. Whilst 52 per cent of London workers say they would struggle to find a new job if made redundant, this is significantly higher at 61 per cent for workers outside of London. This is likely related to the amount of job choice available in the capital, with 51 per cent of London workers believing they would have a lot of job options to choose from, compared to only 38 per cent of non-London workers. These figures come on the back of recent ONS employment statistics showing the highest employment rates since 1974, showing that despite record levels, worker optimism is in decline.

The findings also show confidence in the welfare state is low. While national government was rated highest for who should be primarily responsible to provide support in the event of someone’s unemployment, only 26 per cent of people said that they expected government to actually offer support. Nearly 80 per cent of people said they’d expect their family to help them whilst 68 per cent said they’d look to friends and 32 per cent to their religious community.

The research shows that female workers in particular have less confidence about receiving support from the all levels of the state in comparison to their male counterparts:


  • 24 per cent of female workers say they think the local government would provide support, compared to 29 per cent for male workers
  • 24 per cent of female workers say they think the national government would provide support, compared to 29 per cent for male workers


Overall, just 24 per cent of female workers believe they would receive support from a job they had just left, compared to 27 per cent of male workers. Another key gender difference is the emotional impact of losing a job, with women displaying greater anxiety. Female workers are more likely to worry about not being able to support themselves financially than males (61 per cent vs. 46 per cent respectively), as well as not being able to get another job (49 per cent vs. 38 per cent respectively).

This polling comes as The Institute for the Future of Work launches its ‘Good Work Charter’, which calls on employers to ensure that their jobs offer dignity, fair pay and the opportunity to develop their skills and future employability through learning and development. This polling is part of The Institute for the Future of Work’s rolling programme of research and advocacy to promote ‘good jobs’ and harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution for all.

Anna Thomas, co-founder and director of The Institute from the Future of Work said: “These findings show that British workers – especially those living outside London – are rightly anxious about job change and prospects through the ‘double disruption’ of Brexit and the 4IR. Confidence in support for worker transition – Britain’s next big challenge – is low. We need to broaden the conversation about ‘good work’ and how we get there. The Good Work Charter will embed a ‘people-first’ approach to transition and reassure workers that technologists, employers, investors and government prioritise future good work. The Charter’s principles-based approach will endure fast-paced change and help build on common ground.”

Jack Tadman, senior researcher from Opinium said: “It’s clear from our research that many aren’t optimistic about, or prepared for, a future of work that could look drastically different to now.  The regional chasm between London and the rest of the UK is particularly striking, with the robust nature of the capital’s optimism towards the jobs economy not replicated elsewhere.”


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