1990s: Google and Friends debut decade best for worker job satisfaction too

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The cast of the iconic American TV sitcom 'Friends', left to right: Courteney Cox, Matt Le Blanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston. Photo: Getty
The cast of the iconic American TV sitcom 'Friends', left to right: Courteney Cox, Matt Le Blanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston. Photo: Getty

Low earners in the UK enjoyed more job satisfaction in the early 1990s than high earners, but this has deteriorated over the past three decades, a new report by the Resolution Foundation revealed.

Between 1991 and 1991, 73% of low earners had reported high job satisfaction, compared with 59% of high-paid employees.

But now overall job satisfaction rates have ‘levelled down’ to just under 60% among both high- and low-paid employees.

This "is likely to have been driven by rising levels of work intensity and stress, and falling levels of control over their work,” the report said.

Between 1989 to 2015, stress at work increased from 30% to 38% and there has been a sharp fall in workers feeling they have a say over the decisions that change how their work is done.

This decline has been particularly stark for low earners – falling from 44% to 27% between 1992 and 2017.

The report said that with work consuming the majority of many people’s waking hours, their experience of their job can shape their wider well-being and living standards.

Read more: UK job sectors with the happiest workers

Overall, job satisfaction levels remained resilient at around 60% in the 1990s and 2000s, before falling to 52% following the financial crisis and recovering slightly to 56% by 2017-2019.

Larry Page, right, and Sergey Brin, launched Google in 1998, originally the search engine for Stanford University’s website. Photo: Martin Magunia/Joker/Ullstein bild via Getty Images
Larry Page, right, and Sergey Brin, launched Google in 1998, originally the search engine for Stanford University’s website. Photo: Martin Magunia/Joker/Ullstein bild via Getty Images

On the plus side, over the past 30 years, the proportion of employees who say their work is ‘helpful to others’ has increased and more people say their job ‘offers prospects for advancement” and that they are ‘proud of where they work’.

“With the 2020s set to usher in another period of change in workplaces – driven by Covid, Brexit, and rising automation among other factors – the the impact of workplace shifts should be measured not just in terms of pay and productivity, but workers’ job satisfaction and well-being too,” the report said.

It added that policy makers must address issues for low earners beyond the minimum wage, such as the lack of control over the work they do.

“As Britain edges towards a post-pandemic economy, we need to focus more on these wider measures of job satisfaction if we’re to boost workers’ well-being, as well as their pay. Low earners in particular need to have a greater say over the work they do,” said Krishan Shah, researcher at the Resolution Foundation.

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