By Marcus Leach
In a special Work Audit report published today (Wednesday) to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) looks at how work in Britain has changed since 1952.
The report finds:
· There are at present some 29 million people in employment in the UK, 6 million more than in the 1950s, but there has been no increase in the total number of hours worked each week. The UK has thus undergone a process of informal ‘work-sharing’ since the 1950s with a fall of 10 hours in the length of the average working week. In the 1950s only 4% of people worked part time; 60 years later the proportion is 1 in 4 (6.5 million employees).
· The value of output produced by the economy has quadrupled since 1952: the workforce has become much more productive, enabling society to enjoy a much higher standard of living for the same amount of work. Britons are working much smarter and less hard than in the 1950s, though at present output per hour worked is 16% lower than in France, 18% lower than in Germany and 23% lower than in the United States.
· At the beginning of the Queen’s reign only 1 in 5 households had a washing machine, 1 in 10 a telephone, 1 in 20 a fridge. Almost nobody had central heating. Fewer than half of all households had a television — most people crowded round a shared set to watch the Queen’s coronation in 1953. But while today’s workers are much more prosperous, there is also much greater inequality. When Elizabeth II came to the throne, the distribution of weekly earnings was almost identical to that prevailing when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. In the second half of Elizabeth II’s reign the pay gap has widened markedly.
· Although available evidence currently shows a high overall level of job satisfaction in British workplaces, only a small minority of employees say they would ‘go the extra mile’ for their employer, while reported rates of work-related stress have increased in the latter decades of the Queen’s reign. The rapid advance of digital information technology in the workplace has created opportunities for greater employee autonomy, including scope to do more work from home, but also resulted in information overload, blurred the boundaries between work and non-work time and enabled more sophisticated monitoring and surveillance of employees.
· Whereas 60 years ago well over two-thirds of people in paid work were men — and virtually all men of working age had a job - the male share of employment has fallen to 53%. While the female working age employment rate has risen from 46% to 66% since the late 1950s, the male employment rate has fallen from 96% to 75%.
· The number of manufacturing jobs has fallen from 8.7 million in 1952 to 2.5 million at present, the share of manufacturing jobs in total employment falling from over a third to 8%. In the second half of the Queen’s reign the share of skilled manuals in total employment has fallen from 18% to 10%. The share of people in managerial, professional and technical jobs — knowledge workers - has risen from 25% to 44%. And the share of people employed in ‘personal services’ and ‘sales and customer services’ has risen from 6% to around 16%.
· In 1952 there were 9.5 million members of UK trade unions (40% of employees). By 2011 that number had fallen to 6.5 million (26% of employees). It is estimated that when the Queen came to the throne there were only around 20,000 people employed in personnel roles in UK organisations. Today the figure is around 400,000 — a twentyfold increase.
· The level of registered unemployment in 1952 (350,000) was only a third of today’s corresponding measure (the count of people receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance). In 1952 there were relatively few long-term unemployed. At that time only 1 in 10 of the registered unemployed had been unemployed for more than a year; today the figure is 1 in 6 people on Jobseekers’ Allowance. Similarly, whereas in 1952 there were 3 job vacancies for every person registered unemployed, today there are more than 3 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance for every vacancy.
· During the Queen’s reign a divide has emerged between ‘work-rich households’ — i.e. with more than one person in a job - and ‘workless households.’ In the 1950s, the high male employment rate meant that there were very few households without at least one breadwinner. But since the late 1960s, the workless household rate has increased from 4% to 18.8%.
“In the six decades of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, work has continued to be the warp and weft of everyday life," Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the CIPD, commented.
"Her Majesty’s subjects may devote more of their available time and money to leisure pursuits but even though work has changed in ways that could not be imagined in 1952 the UK still shows no sign of becoming the kind of leisure society predicted by the ‘end of work’ futurologists of yesteryear.
“Although five years into the Queen’s reign as our nation was emerging from post-war austerity the then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan declared that Britain “had never had it so good”, the average material standard of living was very meagre compared with what in 2012 we also call ‘austerity Britain’.
"Yet in our more unequal society, with the threat of unemployment an underlying concern even during good times, people do not seem much happier about their working lives and many exhibit the symptoms of work-related stress. Whatever the future of work, the lesson of the past six decades is that increased productivity and prosperity isn’t enough to enhance the common good in the workplace or society in general.”
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