Work Quality in Northern Ireland Statistics

Date published: 09 February 2021

The second statistical publication on work quality was published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, where analysis by gender, age and skill level is presented for eight work quality indicators.

Second statistical publication on work quality published today by NISRA
Second statistical publication on work quality published today by NISRA

Key points are:

Approximately half of employees worked in flexible jobs

  • A comparison of eight distinct elements of work quality shows that flexibility, involvement in decision making, and opportunities for career progression were the hardest to achieve, with approximately half of employees in jobs that met these criteria. In contrast, at least three quarters of employees were in secure employment, worked adequate hours (neither over nor underemployed), had earnings above the Real Living Wage, had job satisfaction, and believed they carried out meaningful work.
  • When analysing work quality by age, gender and skills level, differences emerged between indicators. A group of four indicators on secure employment, meaningful work, under/overemployment, and job satisfaction showed high proportions of employees in jobs that met these criteria and little variation across age, gender and skill level. This was in contrast to a group of indicators showing lower proportions across groups - decision-making, career progression and flexible work, where the latter two also showed large variation across groups.

Three quarters of employees earned above the Real Living Wage

  • Although approximately three-quarters of employees earned above the Real Living Wage in their main job, there were relatively large differences across skills level and age. More than 9 in 10 employees in high skilled jobs had earnings above the Real Living Wage in their main job, compared to around 6 in 10 for those in low skilled jobs.
  • With the exception of flexibility, employees in high skilled jobs had higher proportions meeting the work quality indicators than those in low skilled jobs.

Similar work quality experience of males and females apart from flexibility

  • The flexible work quality indicator showed a 20 percentage point (pps) difference between males and females. For the remaining seven indicators the difference in the proportion of males and females meeting the relevant criteria was small (less than 3pps). The difference in flexibility was impacted by the higher proportion of females in part time employment (and not underemployed) than males, one component of the flexible work indicator.

Higher proportion of employees under 40 agreed their job offered good opportunities for career progression

  • Similarly, in five of the eight work quality indicators there was less than 3 percentage pps difference in the proportions of 18-39 year olds and over 40 years meeting the criteria. Large differences (approximately 15pps) were shown in the earnings indicator and in opportunities for career progression in particular. A higher proportion of those over 40 years earned above the Real Living Wage while a higher proportion of 18-39 year olds agreed that their jobs offered good opportunities for career progression.

12% of employees were in jobs meeting seven work quality indicators

  • Analysis of the seven work quality indicators from the Labour Force Survey (all except the earnings indicator) showed that 12% of employees were in jobs meeting all seven aspects of work quality – flexibility, secure employment, neither under nor over employed, job satisfaction, meaningful work, opportunities for career progression and employee involvement in decision making.

Commentary

A comparison of eight elements of work quality from the Labour Force Survey and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for 2019/20 shows that flexibility, involvement in decision-making, and opportunities for career progression were the hardest to achieve, with approximately half of employees agreeing their job met these criteria. This compared to job satisfaction, meaningful work, secure employment, adequate employment and earnings, where at least three quarters of employees worked in jobs meeting these criteria.

When analysing the elements of work quality by age, gender and skills level differences emerged across indicators. A group of four indicators on secure employment, meaningful work, under/overemployment, and job satisfaction showed high proportions of employees in jobs that met these criteria and little variation across age, gender and skill level. This was in contrast to the group of indicators showing lower proportions – decision-making, flexible work and career progression, and in particular the latter two, which showed large variation across groups.

The earnings indicator, calculated as the proportion of employees earning above the Real Living Wage stands out in this regard. Although approximately three-quarters of employees earned above this level, there were relatively large differences across skill level and age. More than 9 in 10 employees in high skilled jobs had earnings above the Real Living Wage in their main job, compared to around 6 in 10 for employees in low skilled jobs (31pps difference).

Analysis of the seven work quality indicators from the Labour Force Survey (all except earnings) showed that just over 1 in 10 employees (12%) were in jobs meeting all seven aspects. All employees met the conditions of at least one work quality indicator and 95% of employees met at least three work quality indicators. Flexible working had the largest impact on the percentage of employees not meeting all seven aspects, whilst job security was the aspect most likely to be met by those meeting only one of the indicators.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at the Labour Force Survey page of the NISRA website.
  2. Analysis is based on employees aged 18 or over between July 2019 and June 2020 (referred to as 2019/20).
  3. This release provides statistics for eight work quality indicators: earnings, job security, neither under/over employed, job satisfaction, meaningful work, career progression, employee involvement in decision-making and flexible working. The earnings indicator is sourced from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), and the remaining seven are sourced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
  4. The survey reference date for ASHE was during the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic and was within the time period for the first Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grant.
  5. The Real Living Wage (RLW) is announced in November each year and must be implemented by the following May. As such it is likely that the previous year’s living wage was still in place when the survey was completed. The 2019 rate of £9.30 is therefore used to calculate the percentage earning above the RLW in the time period covered by this release.
  6. The definitions for the eight work quality indicators can be found in table 1
  7. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency wishes to thank the participating households and businesses for taking part in the Labour Force Survey and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.
  8. The Work Quality in Northern Ireland report will be of interest to policy makers, public bodies, the business community, banks, economic commentators, academics and the general public with an interest in the local economy.
  9. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk.
  10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 81
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  12. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician: Jennifer McLoughlin, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), jennifer.mcloughlin@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 905 29228.

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