A new survey has uncovered the high levels of uncertainty amongst furloughed employees, with almost four in five stating that they would consider applying to jobs that they are overqualified for. 

Research released by NTT DATA UK, a consulting and IT services company, reveals that 79 per cent of people on the UK government’s furlough scheme are considering applying for jobs they are overqualified for if they cannot return to their existing employment.

The latest figures show that around 4.9 million employments were furloughed by the end of January 2021, indicating a mass level of uncertainty for millions of UK employees.

This was echoed in the survey findings with almost two-thirds of respondents (62 per cent) fearing that they would not have a job to return to after furlough ends.

Due to this concern, four in five workers (79 per cent) were considering applying for jobs they are overqualified for, reflecting further pessimism about a post-pandemic job market.

Of this number, people between the ages of 45-49 were most likely to consider applying for jobs below their skill level (84 per cent). This is compared to only 68 per cent of workers over the age of 50, showing significant disparity between age groups.

In addition to this, those on furlough for a longer period of time were marginally more likely to consider lower skilled jobs (80 per cent) than those who were only furloughed since December 2020 (74 per cent).

This was also true in the case of industries which had been badly hit by the pandemic. Workers within the travel (88 per cent), hospitality (86 per cent) and automotive industries (83 per cent) were most likely to apply for jobs they were overqualified for.

In addition, during the pandemic, nearly a third of people (31 per cent) admitted they have not been learning any new skills while on furlough.

However, a tenth of respondents (9 per cent) shared their belief that it was not necessary to learn new skills.

Despite this, the majority of furloughed employees surveyed said they were doing free training online (52 per cent) and a tenth (11 per cent) reported that their employer had provided them with training to do whilst on furlough.

Neil Trussler, Chief Delivery Officer at NTT DATA UK, said:

These findings are unsurprising given the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on industries such as hospitality and travel.

Employers need to stay in constant dialogue with furloughed workers, providing clarity where possible on plans for the business and likely status of an individual’s job role when furlough comes to an end. Such communication will be critical in building employer-employee trust, and avoiding a damaging skills drain in the UK economy as workers look elsewhere for a job.

Neil continued:

It is essential that UK workers are ready for this post-pandemic world. The economy has gone through a radical transformation, and the roles and skills requirements businesses are searching for have fundamentally shifted.

Technology kept businesses going in 2020, and many will be keen to build on their success in the digital economy. UK workers should be adaptable, considering reskilling or upskilling to connect with these new job opportunities. Given the existing shortage of tech skills in the UK economy, those who learn skills in this area will be in high demand.


*NTT Data surveyed 1,634 UK employees to obtain these results.