Weekly news round-up: from labour shortages to EDI

This week’s news round-up focuses on everything from a new report projecting labour shortages will continue for many years to a YouGov survey showing many workers think EDI policies matter when they are job searching.


Labour shortages ‘will get worse’

Labour shortages in the UK are likely to get worse, according to new analysis which shows that employment growth in the UK is set to slow dramatically in the coming years as a result of an ageing population, lower birth rates and lower labour market migration since the EU referendum.

The result is likely to be more focus on getting those who are deemed economically inactive back to work, including mums and those who have dropped out due to health reasons. The Department for Work and Pensions yesterday announced the start of new benefit rules for mothers of children aged two and under, for instance. And a consultation on occupational health was published last week. It could also mean employers offering incentives, such as greater flexible working, to attract a wider talent pool.

The new analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies and abrdn Financial Fairness Trust uses official population projections to forecast employment growth for different age groups through to 2040. It finds that employment will grow by less than half the rate we have been used to in the two decades before the pandemic. Between 2000 and 2020, employment grew by on average 300 thousand a year. It forecasts that between 2020 and 2040 this will fall to around 120 thousand. Over 20 years, it says, this means that there will be 3.4 million fewer people in work than if the trends of the last 20 years had continued.

Read more here 

Long-term health conditions on the rise

The number of workers reporting long-term health conditions is increasing, with 36% of the workforce saying that they had at least one long-term health condition in 2023, according to Office for National Statistics figures.

This is up from 31% in the same period in 2019 and 29% in 2016. The number reporting more than five health conditions is also up. Of those inactive because of long-term sickness, 38% now report they have five or more health conditions, up from 34% in 2019. That rises to 46% for those aged 50 to 64 years (up from 41% in 2019).

The most prevalent health condition reported by the working-age population is depression, bad nerves or anxiety. Between 2019 and 2023, the number of people inactive because of long-term sickness who reported depression, bad nerves or anxiety rose by 386,000 (40%). Most of this increase was from people reporting it as a secondary health condition.

The largest main health condition reported by those who were inactive because of long-term sickness was “other health problem or disabilities”, which includes Long Covid. Musculoskeletal problems were also increasing an increasing issue. Moreover, for those inactive because of long-term sickness and who had a main health condition that is musculoskeletal in nature, over 70% reported that they had more than one type of musculoskeletal condition.

The report says the large number of “baby boomers” approaching retirement is one contributor to the problem as is the NHS waiting list.

Why do women leave?

Childcare, menopause and other family-related issues are not the key reasons women leave their jobs, according to a new report which says the way they are forced to work and the way they are managed are more important.

The report, Why Women Leave, by Encompass Equality is based on research showing the top five factors affecting women’s decision to leave their employer are organisational issues, that is, prospects for career progression [cited by 70% in the survey on which the report is based], organisational culture [65%], support from a line manager [82%], workload [31%] and the day to day work itself [85%].

It shows that mums are less likely to be looking to leave their employer than women who don’t have children. On average, women are 38% likely to leave their employer in the next two years. However, black women are significantly more likely to leave: 49% said they are likely to leave in the next two years. Asian women are also more likely to want to leave and substantially more likely than white women to say that childcare, physical or mental health and eldercare issues carry weight in their decisions about whether to stay with or leave their employer.

Read more here.

Hours continue to fall after 4-day week trial

Employers who took part in a global four-day week trial have continued to reduce their hours six months afterwards, with those hours dropping on average from 38 hours a week to just under 33 hours, according to new research.

The study by 4 Day Week Global found that companies’ average working hours continued to fall a year after starting their six-month trial. It says the reduction is based on working more efficiently rather than more intensively.

Workers’ experience remained positive and unchanged six months after the trial. Self-rated physical and mental health measures improved over 12 months, with employees also reporting increased work-life balance scores.

Lead researcher, Professor Juliet Schor of Boston College said: “Life satisfaction scores remained stable with no significant change from the trial’s endpoint to the 12-month mark. However, job satisfaction showed a slight regression after a year. This suggests the positive effects a 4 day week has on life satisfaction may be more deeply embedded in individuals’ overall well-being than in job satisfaction alone. Nonetheless, job satisfaction scores remained higher than baseline.”

Read more here.

Work getting more intensive, says TUC

More than half of UK workers feel work is getting more intense and demanding, with 61% saying they feel exhausted by the end of most working days – more so for women, according to the TUC.

Many feel the situation is getting worse. More than a third of workers (36%) are spending more time outside of contracted hours reading, sending and answering emails. A third are spending more time outside of contracted hours doing core work activities. Forty per cent say they have been required do more work in the same amount of time and around the same number say they are feeling more stressed at work.

The TUC says women face greater work intensity than men and are more likely to say they feel exhausted at the end of most working days (67% to 56%) and that work is getting more intense (58% to 53%). It puts this in part down to the higher representation of women in public services such as health and social care where labour shortages are high and to care responsibilities meaning they have to work more intensively.

Among other things it is calling for a right to disconnect and the strengthening of enforcement of working time regulations.

Read more here

Diversity levels in venture capital firms ‘unacceptable’

Urgent reforms are needed to address the ‘unacceptable’ lack of diversity in the venture capital sector, according to a report from the Treasury Select Committee which highlights the knock-on effect on funding for women-led businesses.

The report cites evidence from British Patient that looked at the proportion of funding from the venture capital community that went to all-female founded firms. It found that the proportion going to all-female founded teams was just two per cent. The report found a similar lack of diversity when it came to funding going to founders from ethnic minority backgrounds. Extend Venture’s, an organisation that supports diverse entrepreneurs, found that less than two per cent of venture funding went to black and ethnic minority-led businesses.

The lack of diversity in funding extends to the investors themselves. The report cites data showing that only 15–18 per cent of angel investors are women and only about 11 per cent of the existing angel community are from ethnic minorities.

Read more here

EDI matters in job searches, says poll

Two thirds of UK workers say equality, diversity and inclusion [EDI] are important to them when they look for jobs, according to a YouGov survey.

The survey found that EDI is more important for women when job hunting – 74 per cent said this compared to 58 per cent of men.

Younger workers are also more likely to value EDI. 78 per cent of 18-to–24-year-olds said it is important to them when job searching, compared to 60 per cent of over 55s.

Just 41 per cent said that their current employer values diversity and inclusion, but 61 per cent said that their employer has active EDI policies or initiatives in place.

Asked what employers could do to boost their EDI policies, workers said encouraging regular employee feedback [63 per cent] and create physically accessible workplaces [55 per cent].

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