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February 2023

Business Leaders’ Council: Which jobs make us happy?

Business Leaders’ Council: Which jobs make us happy?

UK Labour Market Wellbeing Data 2012-2022

At this Business Leaders’ Council event, a panel of experts explored the relationship between life satisfaction and job types using our analysis of UK occupation data 2012-2022 (source: Annual Population Survey and ESHA survey).

The webinar was chaired by Hugh Stickland, Deputy Director of Public Policy and Analysis, ONS . Hugh was joined in discussion by:

  • Dr. Simona Tenaglia (What Works Centre for Wellbeing) who presented the findings from the Centre’s data analysis
  • Richard Kelly, Deputy Director, Strategy & International, Labour Markets, BEIS
  • Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Advisor Employment Relations, CIPD
  • Nancy Hey (Executive Director at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing).

Watch the webinar

Questions asked during the event

Q. I imagine Richard Layard’s work formed part of the literature review? I enjoyed his ‘Can We Be Happier’ book.

A. Yes, the work on Origins of Happiness was in partnership with Richard Layard’s team at LSE – they led our national wellbeing team 2015-2021. Our summary of that work. The background to a lot of the methodology includes Richard Layard’s and team’s work.

Q. Are you planning on including disability as an independent variable in future research?

A. Yes, we can think how to introduce this variable. In few months we are going to start an analysis on disability and wellbeing.

Q. Interested in the gross weekly pay comment not having an effect on wellbeing/life satisfaction – can anyone expand on this?

A. We could introduce the gross week pay only for an analysis including employees because gross weekly pay was available only for them. The relationship resulted positive but small.

Q. As age increases, life satisfaction and happiness decreases; and single people are less satisfied: Is there any link here? For example, as partners die and relationships breakdown in older life?

A. Take a look at our age life sat, happiness, purpose and anxiety analysis.

Q. Did the data look at the self-employed (ideally crossed with profession) and were there any interesting patterns there?

A. Yes, there are self employed in the data. In the report you can see that the reference category against which you can interpret the results is employees.

National and local Job Quality data would be very helpful. We know some parts of the country do better at supporting good quality jobs.

Q. I wonder how these drivers also link with the self determination theory of motivation: basic psychological needs of competence, relatedness and autonomy?

A. See our discussion blog on power.

Q. What is your opinion on the aspect of digital technology adoption at work in relation to wellbeing?

A. The Institute for the Future of Work are conducting a review into future wellbeing that is addressing the transformational impact of digital and automation technologies.

Q. Presumably low satisfaction also leads to poor health (both physical and mental health)?

A. The causality between life satisfaction and health is bidirectional. With panel data analysis you can study more about the causality.

Q. Do we know why people aged 50+ have returned to work less in the UK than in other countries?

A. There’s governmental work happening on Occupational Health and Work and from Centre for Aging Better.

Q. Do you think there could be a further widening in differences in the data in coming years – for example private sector organisations may have greater budgets or control over supporting wellbeing at work than public sector? Likewise lower risk workplaces may focus more than higher risk?

A. It is not easy to predict this. Today, public or private sector could do much more in measuring wellbeing and act according to the results. A more widespread use of this metric could benefit employers and employees.

Q. When we talk about people wanting ‘more flexibility’ do we know what good looks like for this in different sectors?  I understand hours, but suspect there is more going on – duties, environment, responsibilities, skills used, etc.

A. It looks different for individuals, but common themes are location and flexible hours around responsibilities. Recent trends around hybrid working bring home importance of employers designing in flexibility.

Close UK Labour Market Wellbeing Data 2012-2022

You may also wish to read the blog article on this document.

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