Jobs are no less secure now than they were 20 years ago, according to new data from CIPD.
In its latest report Megatrends: is Work Really Becoming More Insecure?  the advocacy group for workforce development states that the UK’s share of non-permanent work – covering self-employed and temporary workers, including temporary, zero-hours contract staff – has not increased from its 1998 level of 20%.
Based on an analysis of data from a range of sources, including the Office for National Statistics, the report also shows that the majority of people in atypical employment – whether self-employed, working in the digital gig economy or on zero-hours contracts – actually choose to work those ways, and are broadly satisfied.
Furthermore, there is no long-term increase in the underemployment rate of workers who want more hours – which stood at just under 7% from 2002 to 2007, peaked at about 10% in 2011 and then fell back to just over 7% last year.
In a statement,  CIPD head of public policy Ben Wilmott said: “This report counters some of the common rhetoric that employment in the UK is becoming more insecure. On a wide range of indicators, the evidence suggests that … employment security has remained broadly stable over the last two decades with very little evidence of any structural, big increase in casual and insecure work. Increases in employment insecurity where they have occurred seem to be cyclical, linked to economic downturns, rather than a long-term trend.”
Wilmott noted: “This suggests that more attention should be paid by policymakers and employers on improving job quality and workplace productivity across the economy to tackle problems such as low pay and discrimination, not simply on improving the rights and security of atypical workers – important though this is. The government needs to outline in its Industrial Strategy additional measures to work with employers to improve how people are managed and developed. For example, through ensuring sector deals are contingent on plans to improve leadership and people management practices, providing enhanced business support to small firms and improving labour market enforcement.”
Is CIPD on the money with its assessment of the data?
Institute of Leadership and Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “This report reflects a lot of thoughts that have emerged from organisations such as Engage for Success,  and from last year’s government report Good Work: the Taylor review of modern working practices.  If we have within the jobs market good-quality work that is not just intrinsically satisfying, but ensures that workers are fairly treated and rewarded and have plenty of opportunities for development, then the benefits will be felt among employers as well as staff.”
She notes: “Ben Wilmott makes the point that job security is not the issue that many work experts perceive it to be, and CIPD’s figures certainly demonstrate that. While I support that broad assessment, I would add that part of good work is a feeling of assurance that it’s not going to be taken away from you at any time. So, regardless of the nature of your contract, if you have a job that has a sense of continuity to it, and in which you feel that your interests are represented – whether by a trade union or other employee voice – and where the employer is taking steps to create a diverse and inclusive culture, those factors will all contribute to a high-quality experience of the working environment.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on developing talent