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Brits positive about work but want government and employers to give greater support to working people

10 July 2018 | Tags: BSA, British Social Attitudes, Work, Benefits, Welfare, Technology, Labour market

Despite a rise in insecure working patterns, Brits are positive about work, with 59% saying they would work even if they didn’t need the money.

This year’s British Social Attitudes Survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, also reveals that 83% of people view work as good for physical health and 90% for mental health. 

However a clear majority believe that government and employers are responsible for ensuring workers have an adequate income: 70% think the government should top up wages of low earning single parents, 58% think they should top up the wages of low earning working couples with children and 71% want the minimum wage increased.

Support for an increase to unemployment benefits is also at a 15 year high, with 20% saying the government should spend more.

There is particularly strong support among young people aged 18-25 for topping up wages, with 67% wanting the government to top up low earning working parents wages, compared with 46 percent of respondents over the age of 65.  79% of 18-25 year olds want low earning single parent wages to be topped up, against 57% of those over the age of 65.

Younger people aged 18 to 25 and older people over the age of 65 also have quite different opinions about the welfare system.  35% of younger people agree that welfare creates dependency, compared to 50% of older people. 65% of young people are concerned that cutting welfare benefits would damage people’s lives, against 53% of older people.

Researchers found that young people are the most likely to face unstable work patterns, but also that they are confident they could find a new job if needs be. 17% of 18-25 year olds report having their hours changed at short notice, compared with 5% of 36-65 year olds.

And looking to the future, people are still optimistic, at least about their own job prospects.

75% of people believe robots will take over many jobs in the next ten years. Those aged over 65 were most likely to think this was likely.

However, few people actually feel at risk themselves, with just 10% of workers worrying that their job will be replaced by a machine or computer programme in the coming years.

Nancy Kelley, Deputy Chief Executive at the National Centre for Social Research, says:  “Despite increased instability in the work place and the decline of jobs for life, Brits continue to see dignity in work and place a value on employment that goes far beyond simply earning money.

"We feel strongly that work should pay enough to meet a basic standard of living, and want the government to step in to support working people, particularly those with children and single parents.

"Whatever automation means for the future of work, we are feeling fairly optimistic about our own working lives, and it seems likely that people will look to the government and employers to create new jobs to replace the old, rather than demanding fundamental reform of the welfare system.”

Read the full British Social Attitudes chapter here.