UK workers report plummeting job satisfaction and falling standards of living, despite the likelihood of today’s GDP figures marking an end to the recession. These are among the headline findings from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) quarterly Employee Outlook survey of over 2,000 employees.

The survey, conducted by YouGov, shows job satisfaction levels have hit an all-time low of +35, down from +48 in Summer 2009*, with a large proportion reporting a worsening of their standard of living in the last six months (29%). However, less than one in 10 say their standard of living has improved (9%), compared to 14% last quarter.

Younger workers are particularly unhappy at work, with job satisfaction among 18-24 year-olds falling to just +5 from +44 in Summer 2009, and generally increasing proportionally with older age groups. Those aged 55-64 are the most satisfied at work, with a score of +55, exactly the same level as in Summer 2009.

CIPD lead adviser and co-author of Employee Outlook, Claire McCartney, said:

“Even though the economy is no longer flat on its back, the ‘real economy’ as experienced in the day to day lives of workers is crippled. If the economy does ‘officially’ emerge from recession today, employers are going to have to continue to work hard to re-build motivation and commitment among employees bruised by job insecurity, lack of consultation over change, pay freezes or cuts, as well as increases in stress and conflict.

“Job satisfaction among young people has been decimated by this recession. The fact they’ve grown up in an era of plenty, and have not seen anything like this before, may well partly explain why they’re so much unhappier than their older colleagues. But the lack of opportunities to learn new skills or make their first steps up the career ladder is also likely to be grinding them down. The stagnant labour market means people are not moving on and up as they would like, leaving many young people stranded in entry level jobs.

“Current high levels of youth unemployment are well documented, but our survey lifts the lid on the simmering discontent caused by the recession among even those young people fortunate enough to have a job.”

Key findings include:
• The vast majority of workers believe it would be difficult or very difficult to find another job if they lost their current one (63%). Almost a fifth (19%) think it is likely or very likely that they could lose their job as a result of the recession.
• Employees and particularly those in the public sector are more likely than last quarter to report their organisation has made or is planning to make redundancies. Thirty per cent overall have made redundancies (29% last quarter), with public sector redundancies increasing from 19% last quarter to 23%. Fifteen per cent overall are planning redundancies (14% last quarter), with public sector plans for redundancies increasing from 24% last quarter to 31%.
• The proportion of people reporting an increase in conflict at work between colleagues, bullying by line managers, as well as an increase in stress and people taking time off sick, has edged up again. Half (49%) of respondents report an increase in stress, a fifth (24%) say there has been an increase in sick leave, while 18% of employees report an increase in conflict and 14% think bullying by managers has increased
• A large proportion of employees (41%) say they feel under excessive pressure either everyday or once or twice a week
• Employees are particularly unhappy with the opportunities to learn new skills and progress at work as a result of the recession, with almost a quarter (23%) saying their organisation have cut back on training in response to the recession. Just a quarter (25%) agree they are learning new skills; however almost half (43%) disagree and only 6% say there are more opportunities to progress compared with the vast majority (64%) who disagree.

* score is the percentage of employees agreeing minus the percentage disagreeing