Perceptions of public sector job security plummet, poll finds

25 Nov 13
The sense of job security in the public sector has declined markedly since the mid-2000s, according to a major survey

The Workplace employment relations study, conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the Economic & Social Research Council, captured the views of more than 20,000 workers across both the public and private sectors. In-depth interviews with 2,700 managers and 1,000 employee representatives were also conducted between March 2011 and June 2012. Results were compared with an earlier study conducted in 2004.

Whereas in 2004 around two-thirds of employees in both sectors agreed or strongly agreed that their jobs were secure, by 2011 fewer than half (47%) of public sector workers said they felt secure, while perceptions in the private sector were largely unchanged.

Public sector employees were also more likely to say they never had enough time to get their job done, although a ‘long-hours culture’ was found to be more prevalent in the private sector.

Wage restraint had hit public sector employees harder. Almost half (49%) of public sector workers said their pay had been frozen recently, compared with only 26% in the private sector.

There was also a view among public sector workers that management had become less supportive. Compared with the 2004 survey, fewer public sector workers said their managers helped them develop new skills or were understanding about their family and other non-work responsibilities.

In contrast, private sector workers were more likely to say their managers were fair, understanding and dealt honestly with their teams.

Alex Bryson, principal research fellow at the NIESR and one of the authors of the report, said: ‘Demands made of employees to work harder have increased in both sectors, but private sector employees have generally benefited from more supportive management.

‘These differences partly reflect different employer responses to recession in the two sectors. But the continuing squeeze on public finances means it is likely that there will continue to be pressure on working conditions in the public sector for some time to come.’


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