Healthy UK jobs market… but beware ‘promotion blockage’

The British jobs market has withheld the effects of the recession and actually performed better than many of its European rivals, with unemployment now around the same figure as it was in 2008.

But, while workers can be buoyed by this strong position, one study has warned that by looking closer at the jobs market there are issues that must be addressed for the long term.

Staying for longer

The Resolution Foundation reckons people are spending longer in the same job, creating a ‘promotion blockage’ and impacting on the earning potential of younger people.

The average time spent in a job in 2002 was 51 months but by 2014 this had shot up to 65 months. People born in 1983 – likely to have been at the heart of the storm during the recession as they will have been beginning their careers – were typically found to be earning £2,800 a year lower than people five years older.

This complex situation, however, points to positives when it comes to older workers being able to remain in employment and the job prospects of women returning from maternity leave.


The thinktank came up with three conclusions from its in-depth study.

*Insecurity has not increased over the past two decades but some workers are in a more precarious position. It argues insecurity has ‘deepened’ rather than ‘broadened’.

 *Stability has risen, although this may lead to progression and promotion blockages for the young.

*Big differences still exist despite the overall security and stability measures. Older and female workers have seen a trend towards a much more secure and stable employment picture.

Assessing the market

Laura Gardiner, a senior policy analyst at the foundation, said: “The UK has a good record on getting more people into work over the last 20 years, though some have argued that this has come at the expense of rising job insecurity.

“In fact the overall share of insecure work has remained remarkably stable, even since the crash. However, the recent rise of precarious forms of employment such as zero hours contracts has brought deeper insecurity for a sizeable minority of workers, particularly young people.”

Paul Gregg, Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the University of Bath, and also an associate at the foundation, said:  “The amount of time people spend in the same job has risen steadily, particularly among women and older workers. This shift has been supported by a combination of financial incentives, support with childcare and employment legislation.

“But we’ve also seen people moving between jobs less frequently. This can create a promotion blockage, which in turn hinders young people’s career progression and can permanently scar their earnings. 

“Job security is crucial to the pursuit of full employment as it will make work more attractive to those facing the biggest barriers to work. But we should also be mindful about the falling rate of job moves, which are a vital way for young workers to build their careers.”

Next move

Chancellor George Osborne has looked to tackle the issue of ‘low pay’ by announcing the new National Living Wage in his summer budget. The foundation now wants his next move to be to address stability issues to ensure the health of the market is spread across generations and genders.

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