The last couple of years have been positive for the employment sector in Britain, as there have never been more people in work than there are now. The latest figures show more than three-quarters of Brits are in some sort of employment, representing the joint-highest figure on record.
According to the latest results from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Market Overview, UK: April 2019, the employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 years old reached 76.1 per cent in February 2019. This is an increase since last year’s figures when it was 75.4 per cent.
This amounts to an impressive 32.72 million people over the age of 16 in employment, the difference of 457,000 from February 2018. It is thought this is due to the increase in Brits working full-time hours, as part-time working dropped by 15,000 over the 12 months.
The employment rate for women has also increased over the year to 71.8 per cent, which is the joint highest since records began in 1971.
According to the ONS: “The increase in the employment rate for women in recent years is due partly to changes to the State Pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65 years old.”
There is still a greater proportion of men in work, however, with 80.5 per cent of males having a job. While this is not a record-breaking result, this level has not been higher since December 1990 to February 1991.
In addition to the employment rate increasing, the number of people unemployed has dropped. Between December 2018 and February 2019, it fell to 3.9 per cent – the lowest an annual rate since 1975.
Unemployment levels have been falling for the last five years, and now just 1.34 million people in the country who have actively been seeking work for four weeks do not have a job.
The rate is slightly higher for men at 4.1 per cent, while it was the joint-lowest since records began for women at 3.8 per cent.
Commenting on the recent figures, head of employment at the Confederation of British Industry Matthew Percival said: “The UK labour market continues to outperform the rest of the economy.”
He went on to say Brexit could have a big affect on Britain’s employment rate over the next few years, stating: ““Although securing a Brexit extension means we have averted an economic crisis, politicians must now come together and avoid a no deal scenario or risk impacting the UK’s stellar labour market.”
While businesses might require new members of staff, it is important they focus on quality and not quantity. Conducting pre-employment screening tests is a good idea to ascertain whether a prospective candidate will be right for your company.
Mr Percival also commented on the statistics concerning wages, as total pay increased by 3.5 per cent in nominal terms and by 1.6 per cent in real terms over the year.
“It’s also positive that real pay continues to rise faster than it has on average over the last two years,” he remarked.
However, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), this is not without sacrifice on behalf of employees.
Its recent analysis showed British full-time employees work two and half weeks more a year than those in the European Union (EU). They typically worked 42 hours a week in 2018, while EU staff tended to do two hours less.
Not only is this resulting in a poor work-life balance for British workers, but it could impact productivity too, says the TUC.
It found that while full-time employees in Germany work 1.8 hours less a week than in the UK, their productivity is 14.6 per cent higher.
Denmark is also a good example, as employees typically do less than 38 hours a week but their work is 23.5 per cent more efficient.
General secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady said: “Britain’s long hours culture is nothing to be proud of. It’s robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loved ones. Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal.”
She called for a change, saying productivity will be impacted if Brits continue to work as long and hard as they are.
“As new technology changes our economy, the benefits should be shared by working people. That means shorter hours, more time with family and friends, and decent pay for everyone,” Ms O’Grady stated.