Work quality in Northern Ireland statistics

Date published: 28 February 2023

The latest Work Quality statistical publication was published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)
Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)

This analysis builds on three previous publications and compares the quality of work over three years, where commentary on the latest release is provided below.

Introduction

This analysis builds on three previous publications and compares the quality of work across three years using eight statistical indicators. The suite of work quality indicators includes subjective and objective measures, relates to employees aged 18 and over and has been derived from the Labour Force Survey and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Five of the eight work quality indicators have had significant increases since 2020

A comparison of the eight work quality indicators shows that secure employment, being neither under nor over employed, performing meaningful work, earning above the Real Living Wage and job satisfaction were the most achievable for employees in NI between 2020 and 2022, with at least four in five employees working in jobs that met these criteria in 2022. In contrast involvement in decision making, career progression and flexible working have been the hardest work quality indicators to achieve between 2020 and 2022, with less than 60% of employees meeting the criteria for each in 2022.

There was little variation in the proportion of employees in NI with secure employment, meaningful work or job satisfaction across the years. In contrast, the proportion of employees in NI earning above the Real Living Wage has increased by the largest margin since 2020 (11pps) and the proportion of employees that were neither under nor over employed in 2022, whilst similar to 2021, has significantly increased since 2020 (3pps).   

The group of indicators with the lowest proportions have also seen significant improvement between 2020 and 2022, with the proportion of employees reporting involvement in decision making, career progression and flexible working increasing by around six percentage points.

Notable differences emerged when analysing by age and sex

For six of the eight work quality indicators the difference between employees aged 18 to 39 and those aged 40 and over meeting the relevant criteria was small in 2022 (less than five percentage points). While there was a difference of 10 percentage points in favour of employees aged 40 and over when considering the proportion of employees earning above the Real Living Wage in 2022, this gap has decreased by five percentage points since 2020.

Conversely, career progression has been consistently higher for employees aged 18 to 39 than those aged 40 and over with a difference of 12 percentage points in 2022.

Although there is little difference in the majority of indicators, the flexible work quality indicator highlights large differences between males and females. In 2022, for five of the eight indicators the difference in the proportion of males and females meeting the relevant criteria was small (less than four percentage points), whilst there was a difference of 18 percentage points in favour of females when flexibility was considered. This difference was predominately due to the higher proportion of females in part time employment (and not underemployed) than males, one component of the flexibility indicator. Flexible work has been consistently higher for females since 2020.

Meaningful work has also been consistently higher for female employees than for male employees with the difference increasing from two percentage points in 2020 to eight percentage points in 2022. Conversely, career progression has been consistently higher for male employees than female employees, with a difference of seven percentage points in 2022.

Notes to editors: 

1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at on the NISRA website.

2. A work quality page, which also includes links to three previous publications and a live work plan, is available on the NISRA website.

3. This release provides statistics for eight work quality indicators: earnings, secure employment, 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. Analysis is based on employees aged 18 or over between July 2019 and June 2020 to July 2021 to June 2022 in line with data available from ASHE.

5. The definitions for the eight work quality indicators can be found in the indicator section within the publication.

6. Whilst the 2022 survey reference date for ASHE (27 April) was outside the time period for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grant, annual earnings, which refer to the tax year ending  April 2022, will include the earnings of some employees who were fully furloughed, or flexi-furloughed, where earnings would be no less than 80%.

7. 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. (i.e. the 2022 ASHE data relates to the pay period including April 2022, at which time the 2022/2023 Real Living Wage of £10.90 may not have been applied). The previous years RLW is therefore used to calculate the percentage earning above the RLW that year.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk.

11. 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 811

12. To keep up to date with news from the Department for the Economy you can follow us on the following social media channels:

Twitter – @Economy_NI

Facebook – @DeptEconomyNI

Instagram – economy_ni

LinkedIn – Department for the Economy NI 

13. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Holly McAteer,

Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS),

holly.mcateer@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 9025 5176.

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