Thursday, 25 February 2016

SWOB 5: Rumours of the end of the job for life are a little exaggerated (but not if you're male)

For more than 20 years commentators have commented as they are wont to do on the end of the job for life. So here's a thing. Long-term job stability in the UK is on the up. - if you are female.
If you are male, however, secure job prospects are not as prevalent as they once were.

Look at the graph below. It shows the share of  all employees who have been with the same employer for 10 years or longer. This is a proxy for long-term stability. Since younger workers cannot expect to have been in a job for more than 10 years, the sample is restricted to those aged 35 and above. The middle line shows a small fall in the share of workers in a long(ish) term job - down from around 46% of employees in the 1980s to around 43% now.  Note how the 2008-2012 downturn led to a fall in long-term jobs but that the subsequent recovery has almost offset this drop.

Source: LFS
Now look at the trends for men and women. Very different. The long-term job share for men has fallen a lot since the 1980s (though even this recovered a little in recent years). In contrast, the long-term job share among women has risen - not withstanding the recession.  Once again this is another manifestation of the rising feminisation of the workforce. Women are staying with employers longer, largely because family friendly working enables them to stay with an employer  (an issue to be discussed in future blogs).

Another way to look at the issue is to measure the share of short-term jobs (those that have lasted for less than a year). If everyone were changing jobs a lot more than in the past then this short-term job share would be higher than ever. It isn't. While the graph below is highly cyclical- hiring falls a lot in downturns - it is clear that short-term jobs are much less prevalent now than in either the 1980s or in the 2000s.  So it does seem that rumours of the end of the job for life are still a little exaggerated.

Jonathan Wadsworth
CEP & Royal Holloway

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