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Survey reveals extent of job insecurity

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Job security looks like being one of those quaint phrases, like trustworthy banks and political leadership, destined to be greeted with a snort of disbelief. The recession and rising unemployment have created a climate of fear in the workplace. Some hardline business people might cling to the belief that this is a good thing, but insecurity is obviously slowing consumer spending and thus hindering recovery.

The results from the latest Skills and Employment survey from the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills reveals high levels of job insecurity and pessimism in the sample of 3,000 workers aged between 20 and 60.

Pay reductions and the lack of control over job descriptions were key issues behind the fears, along with deskilling and workplace stress. Nearly a third of the respondents said that they feared unfair treatment at work.

The notion of a public sector post as being a job for life is clearly outdated. For the first time since 1997, public sector workers are now more concerned about job security than private sector employees.

The implications are that the general experience of work in the second decade of the 21st century is far more intensive, stressful and demanding. Some 40 percent of workers said that they were working at very high speeds for about 75 percent of their time at work, a threefold increase since 1997.

Although some of the statistics can be put down to the economic climate, public-sector cuts and correspondingly higher workloads, the survey also highlights the problems of poor management. Workers feel they have far less input into their working patterns and responsibilities.

Social scientist Alan Felstead told The Guardian that this was a worrying revelation. "The slowness with which employers in Britain are enhancing employee participation is becoming an issue of considerable concern," he said. "Better job control entails increased employee involvement and participation. The intention should be to improve the balance between the benefits of hard work and the costs."

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