• There was a small improvement in the proportion of employees experiencing no negative aspect of job quality between 2010/11 and 2016/17.

  • The proportion of employees experiencing one negative aspect of job quality remained consistent at just over one-third between 2010/11 and 2016/17.

  • Those experiencing two or more negative aspects of job quality fell by four percentage points between 2010/11 and 2016/17 to 36%. 

This chart shows the number of employees experiencing no, one or multiple negative aspects of job quality from 2010/11 to 2016/17. The quality of a job consists of a range of different aspects, such as the nature of the tasks in the job, the leeway available to perform these tasks, support from co-workers and management, pay levels, and the presence of workplace hazards. This indicator applies measures used by Chandola and Zhang and is based on available data from the Understanding Society study. These are based on self-reported questions relating to autonomy, wellbeing, job security, satisfaction, as well as a measure of low pay. 

Most employees experienced at least one negative aspect of job quality in 2016/17. 

  • 13% of employees experienced three or four negative aspects of job quality.  
  • 24% of employees experienced two negative aspects of job quality and 37% experienced one negative job aspect.  
  • The remaining 27% of employees experienced no negative aspects of job quality.  
  • There were small improvements in job quality between 2010/11 and 2016/17: The proportion of employees with no negative aspects of job quality rose from 24% to 28%, before falling by 1 percentage point to 27% in 2016/17.  
  • The proportion of employees with multiple negative aspects of job quality fell by 5 percentage points from 40% to 35%, before increasing again by 1 percentage point to 36%.

Despite 2010/11 to 2016/17 being a period of strong employment growth, there were no substantial improvements in job quality, based on the measures of this study. This highlights the need for an active strategy to improve the quality of work.

Apart from low pay, the chart constructs job quality indicators in line with the approach taken by Chandola and Zhang. Aspects of low-quality work are measured as follows. 

  • Low job satisfaction – employees who report feeling somewhat, mostly or completely dissatisfied with their job. 
  • Low job autonomy – across five dimensions of job autonomy, an average score indicating some (or a lot) of limitation. 
  • Job well-being – across six measures of emotional perceptions of jobs (whether it inspires feelings of tension, unease, worry, depression, gloom or misery), an average score indicating these feelings some, most or all the time. 
  • Job security – perception that job loss is either likely or very likely in the next 12 months. 
  • Low pay – earnings are below two-thirds of UK hourly median pay. 

The questions are asked of employees only (the self-employed are excluded) and are specific to each job they hold.

Source: University of Essex, Understanding Society, The UK Household Longitudinal Study, 2010–17

Further reading

Long read

What the quality of work means for our health

4 February 2020

About 13 mins to read

Long read

Read about how the quantity and quality of employment has changed over the last 10 years, and the...

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