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UK jobs market sees slowest pace of change in decades – even with Covid disruption

Date Posted: 9 February, 2022

Most recruitment experts would say that hiring activity has exploded over the last year, in the wake of disruption caused by Covid-19. But a new report has shed a different light on the UK jobs market, claiming that the pace of change has actually slowed to its lowest level in decades.


Forming part of the Economy 2030 Inquiry, the research was conducted by the Resolution Foundation and the London School of Economy. It concludes that the rate at which jobs across different sectors has grown and fallen has slowed since the late 1980s. This contradicts commonly-held perceptions that changes in the labour market are accelerating.


Researchers found that even in 2021, an unprecedented year due to pandemic-related disruption, the overall structure of the UK jobs market only changed very slightly. In fact, these changes accounted for just 7% of total employment. This is only a third of the upheaval seen in the late 1980s, a period when upheaval in the jobs market reached dramatic levels.


In terms of the actual makeup of the UK employment market, there are no huge surprises in the report’s findings. The UK has experienced a seismic shift in the long-term from manufacturing to professional services, along with education, health and social care, hospitality and administration. This has happened gradually as part of an organic process, with older workers gradually leaving the market and young people choosing to join new sectors.


What does this mean for workers? 


Ultimately, the conclusion from the Resolution Foundation report is that the UK jobs market is more stable than commonly believed. But is this good news for both workers and employers?

The report’s authors describe the situation as a “mixed blessing” for workers in particular. On the one hand, there’s a reduced risk of people losing their jobs and having no choice but to move onto a worse one. The research backs this up, as the number of workers losing their jobs fell by half between 1991 and 2019.


But this also means fewer opportunities to move up the career ladder, which is again supported by data from the last couple of decades. The number of employees choosing to switch jobs fell from 3.2% to 2.4% between 2000 and 2019. And those looking to take the leap into a whole new industry also fell by a huge 35% in the same timeframe.


What will happen next?


In addition to reflecting on changes in the jobs market in the past, the Resolution Foundation report also looked to the future. Its experts predict that the pace of change in the UK jobs market could soon start to speed up. Major factors reshaping the world economy such as Covid-19, Brexit and the fight against climate change could all be key drivers behind this acceleration.


And with this prediction: a warning. Advising that employers need to make this transition as smooth as possible, and learn lessons from the 1980s and not aim to force out older workers, report co-author Nye Cominetti said:


“Workers should make the most of this change with job changes that improve wages,” 

“However, many workers will also lose out and they will need to be better protected than they have. been during previous periods of great economy.”


If your business needs expert recruitment support or is already planning for future changes in the jobs market, work with RGH – a leading acquisitive global recruitment and consultancy group. Get in touch to find out more.