Employment trends – key facts

  • Many predicted a huge expansion in flexible employment such as self employment, temporary work and second jobs; in reality full time permanent jobs remain the bedrock of the UK labour market. (See flexibility below )
  • Since 1997 almost all new jobs have been permanent and two thirds full-time.
  • Women account for a bigger share of the workforce and by international standards the UK already has very high levels of employment for women.
  • The share of people working part-time has increased.
  • It is estimated that nearly three million new jobs will be created in the services sector (both private and public), some in well-paid professional jobs but also a great many in lower-paid service sector jobs
  • After a short-lived surge in the early 1990s, temporary work has been in retreat.
  • We have seen a trend towards greater work intensification and job insecurity with workers expressing less satisfaction with their jobs than ten years ago.
  • We have seen significant increases in long hour working by many white collar groups
  • The Government’s re-regulation of the labour market including new employment rights and protections around the family friendly agenda has helped improve working conditions.
  • But, the Government’s refusal to end Britain’s opt out from the Working Time Directive means there is little hope of ending Britain’s long hours culture.

The rise of flexibility

Employment forecasts that ignore the fact that employee-based jobs will remain the bedrock of the labour market in the 21st Century consequently misinterpret how the rise of flexible working will develop in the future.

We already know that the rise of flexibility in working patterns in recent years has been fuelled by a demand from both workers and employers.

  • employees want greater work-like balance and increasingly this is across-the-board rather than just limited to those needing to choose flexibility to accommodate caring responsibilities
  • social research suggests that this trend will intensify in the coming years and that employee demand for work-life balance will expand rapidly
  • in recent years employers have been under increasing pressure to implement flexible working patterns both to meet employee demand and in order to enhance competitiveness and productivity and to deliver high quality services and products to their customers and clients.
    • forecasts of employment growth (e.g. the rapid increase in service sector jobs) means that there will be an increasing emphasis on delivering timely services to individuals in the future
    • developments in manufacturing around “just in time” production techniques will increasingly become a fact of working life

Flexible working in the future?

There are a number of key conclusions that we can draw from current trends and the most reliable employment projections that we have to hand.

  • the demand for flexible working patterns by both workers and employers is set to gather pace in the coming years and will play a greater role in the employment relationship
  • the predominant employment relationship of the future will be the same as now, between employers and employees,
  • consequently, negotiating flexible working patterns will become a key collective bargaining issue for trade unions
  • while part-time working will continue to grow, the relatively stable trends in full-time employment will demand even more innovative approaches to achieving flexibility in the workplace.