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Indeed Data: Age is a barrier to better work

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Generation X are the least satisfied age group at work, with 16% believing their job isn’t good according to the global matching and hiring platform Indeed.

The survey of 5,000 UK workers found that Gen X’s (45-55 year olds) dissatisfaction with work may stem from the fact that 34% feel they have a lack of development opportunities, higher than the average for all workers (29%). 

They are also more disconnected from their work – of all age groups they are the least likely (34%) to feel that their job is tied to their identity, and therefore a huge part of what defines them. The research found 51 year olds are the least satisfied, with a quarter (25%) saying that they don’t have a “good” job.

Millennials (25-44 year olds), on the other hand, are the most satisfied with their work, with only 8% believing they don’t have a good job. They are also the most likely (41%) to say that their work is tied to their identity. 

Overall, one in nine (11%) of UK workers –  representing 3.6 million people – do not think they have a good job. The top reasons for this are unfair pay (41%), lack of support and empathy from management (37%) and lack of development opportunities in the role (29%). More women cite the lack of support and empathy from their management (42%) as a factor in labelling their job as not good than unfair pay (40%). 

Age Anxiety: Age is a barrier for the youngest and oldest in the workforce 

Amongst dissatisfied workers, lack of confidence (27%), age (27%) and a lack of financial security (23%) are the most cited reasons for holding them back from finding better work. 

Almost half (48%) of over 55s say their age is stopping them from getting a better job, while 37% of Gen Xers feel the same. In comparison, only 6% of Millennials believe their age is stopping them from getting better work. Age is also a factor for the youngest generation of workers. Generation Z (Gen Z, 16-24 year olds) say their lack of experience (40%), lack of confidence (33%) and age (28%) are stopping them from getting a better job. 

Men are more likely than women to say that their age is stopping them from getting a better job (29% vs 25%). However, 30% of women said they are more likely to be impacted by a lack of confidence at work, compared to 24% of men. 

Pay and purpose most important for older workers 

Fair pay (39%), flexible hours (36%), and job security (31%) are defining factors of a good job for all age groups surveyed. Over 55s are most likely to rank fair pay (44%) and job security (39%) as top factors for their job. This follows research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that shows that as many as 48% of 50-to-70-year-olds who were forced to retire early during COVID (2020-21) had since experienced relative poverty.  

Despite pay and job security being important across all age groups, almost two thirds of workers (65%) would take an average salary cut of 9% for overall better work. However, willingness to take a cut decreases with age – 80% of Gen Z workers would be open to sacrificing their salary for a better job, whereas more than half (58%) of over 55s would be unwilling to take any pay cut. 

Despite pay being a driving factor for all workers, age groups do interact with work differently. Over 55s are the most likely (73%) to feel a sense of purpose from the work they do while Gen Z are the least likely to feel this way (61%). 

Gen Z are also more likely to highlight social elements with colleagues (27%), being able to be their authentic selves (27%) and support and empathy from management (24%) as top reasons their job is good over their own job security (23%). 

Danny Stacy, UK Head of Talent Intelligence at the global hiring platform Indeed, said: 

“While the definition of good work is deeply subjective, our research reveals a number of must-haves the average UK worker seeks when looking for a better job. Unsurprisingly, receiving fair pay strongly resonates with workers, many of whom are only now beginning to experience real wage growth. The continued desire for flexibility also points to the growing expectation that employers design jobs that allow better work-life balance.

“However, it’s clear that jobseekers face a range of barriers connecting to better work most notably the belief that age is a limiting factor, which is felt by both young and older workers suggesting anxieties around a lack of experience at one end and potentially age discrimination at the other. There is also a widespread lack of confidence among workers that they are the right candidates for better work and then there’s the hiring process itself, which in many cases remains too slow and inefficient and prevents people from finding work.

“Ultimately, the research underscores that better work means something different to all of us, especially across generations. For employers, these insights point towards ways to attract and retain workers but also create the type of work that benefits people and society.” 

*The survey was carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed using 5,012 workers in the UK. The survey was in the field from 27th July – 11th August 2023.

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