Vital industries ‘on cliff edge’ as workers shun jobs over low pay and poor conditions

Construction, healthcare and logistics face growing recruitment challenge, research indicates

Ben Chapman
Wednesday 02 February 2022 19:23 GMT
Some 3.1 million job openings are expected over the next five years in industries considered essential
Some 3.1 million job openings are expected over the next five years in industries considered essential (PA Archive)

Britain’s vital industries are threatened by a lack of workers due to poor conditions and low pay, which is putting off potential new recruits, research suggests.

Sectors critical to putting food on the table and looking after people's health are "on a cliff edge" as people shun essential jobs, according to City & Guilds.

The organisation surveyed 10,000 working-age people and found only one in four respondents would consider a key worker job in industries such as care or logistics. This is despite essential roles accounting for half of all UK employment opportunities.

Some 3.1 million job openings are expected over the next five years in industries considered essential. The research indicates that many of those positions may go unfilled.

Construction could be most badly impacted with just 17 per cent of people stating that they would consider working in the sector.

Just over a fifth (22 per cent) would consider working in food production, agriculture and animal care jobs or transport and logistics (23 per cent), and 26 per cent they would work in health and social care.

Low pay and a lack of relevant skills, experience or qualifications are two key reasons putting people off working in these jobs. Unsociable hours are also considered a negative factor for healthcare (17 per cent) and social care (18 per cent) roles.

Although the research found that, on average, essential workers only earn around £500 less per year than those working in non-essential roles, some are more badly affected than others.

Compared to the average annual earnings for a UK worker (£28,100), salaries drop particularly among those working in retail and social care, where 31 per cent and 23 per cent of people respectively cited pay as a reason not to work in the sector.

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds, said the research demonstrated the “undeniable fact that low salaries, unattractive or inflexible working conditions and a general lack of respect for these critical jobs is having a catastrophic impact on the ability of employers to fill these roles.”

She added: “In the face of a growing labour crisis that is impacting these vital industries and wider society, we need to collectively take a long, hard look at how we can make these jobs more attractive. In the future, we need to do more than simply clap for carers, we desperately need to re-evaluate the way we recognise these roles as a nation.”

City & Guilds is calling for improvements in careers advice to make people aware of the range of roles and training available, as well as the opportunities to progress.

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