The RSA uses cookies on this website. By using this website you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more read our cookie policy and privacy policy. More Info

Lowest paid workers least able to WFH, new RSA Future Work Centre analysis finds

Press Release

The government should consider a French-style “key worker bonus” as part of its lockdown exit strategy, a thinktank suggests, as many key workers are among the lowest paid and least able to work from home.

Fresh figures from the RSA’s Future Work Centre find a strong link between pay and the ability to work from home, the results of which are to be published in a blog. Further data is available on request.

Data drawn from new ONS figures on homeworking and the Labour Force Survey shows that cleaners, retail sales assistants and low-skilled manufacturing or warehousing roles face a ‘double whammy’ of low wages and inflexibility. An inability to work from home puts these workers at greater risk of furlough, redundancy or catching the disease.

While many have suspected that low paid workers are likely to struggle to work from home, this data is the first to show a clear link.

 

Link to interactive graph with details of occupational categories. Full data tables available for data viz.

Retail workers, who have been key in maintaining supplies of food and essentials during the pandemic, have been particularly hard-hit. Just 3% report having ever worked from home, and the job market is contracting - 127,000 retail jobs were lost over the past decade (Table 1). These workers are among the lowest paid, with average wages of just £8.40.

Key occupations for keeping the country moving and healthy during the pandemic are among the least well remunerated - road transport workers and care workers are paid just £11 and £9.40 an hour respectively.

Other low-paid workers are also suffering. The least likely occupation to have worked from home, at just 2%, are ‘other elementary service occupations’, a group which includes waiters and bar staff.

Table 1: The 20 occupations least likely to ever have worked from home

 

Average hourly earnings (£)

Percent ever worked from home

Total net change in jobs (2011-19)

Other Elementary Services Occupations

7.7

2%

67,493

Metal Forming, Welding and Related Trades

12.7

2%

-21,579

Elementary Process Plant Occupations

8.4

3%

-17,016

Mobile Machine Drivers and Operatives

11.3

3%

13,039

Sales Assistants and Retail Cashiers

8.4

3%

-126,526

Elementary Storage Occupations

10.3

3%

49,595

Plant and Machine Operatives

11

4%

18,725

Elementary Cleaning Occupations

8.5

5%

-57,483

Elementary Administration Occupations

11.1

5%

-22,766

Process Operatives

10.3

5%

-12,369

Elementary Sales Occupations

9.1

5%

-14,181

Elementary Security Occupations

9.6

5%

-14,398

Road Transport Drivers

11

7%

96,391

Construction Operatives

12.5

7%

18,246

Other Drivers and Transport Operatives

19.9

8%

16,475

Vehicle Trades

11.3

8%

32,538

Elementary Construction Occupations

10.8

8%

7,494

Sales Supervisors

10.8

9%

-24,298

Housekeeping and Related Services

10.1

9%

-10,560

Customer Service Occupations

11.1

9%

33,748

Caring Personal Services

9.4

10%

245,581


The analysis finds that those jobs most suited to working from home include jobs in IT, management and finance – jobs which come with healthy salaries, pensions and other workplace benefits.

The think-tank warns that while mobile, professional jobs have been expanding over the previous decade, certain ‘hi-touch’ roles have been too (Table 2), which cannot be carried out at home. Quarter of a million jobs (246,000) were added in ‘caring personal services’, along with 126,000 new nurses and midwives. The RSA warns workers in these jobs – which largely cannot be carried out from home – need adequate pay and worker protections.

Table 2: 20 fastest growing occupations by net change in total employment

 

Average hourly earnings (£)

Percent ever worked from home

Total net change in jobs (2011-19)

Functional Managers and Directors

29.8

56%

476,268

IT and Telecommunications Professionals

24.7

55%

315,826

Caring Personal Services

9.4

10%

245,581

Business, Research and Administrative Professionals

23.6

55%

238,763

Teaching and Educational Professionals

19.3

58%

234,523

Business, Finance and Related Associate Professionals

21.5

40%

148,793

Production Managers and Directors

23.5

46%

145,458

Engineering Professionals

21.5

30%

144,536

Health Professionals

25.6

29%

135,061

Sales, Marketing and Related Associate Professionals

19.4

46%

130,341

Artistic, Literary and Media Occupations

14.9

58%

129,890

Nursing and Midwifery Professionals

17.2

11%

126,069

Other Administrative Occupations

11.5

18%

103,344

Road Transport Drivers

11

7%

96,391

Welfare and Housing Associate Professionals

13.3

28%

85,127

Therapy Professionals

16.7

31%

80,035

Public Services and Other Associate Professionals

16.7

40%

72,901

Customer Service Managers and Supervisors

13.7

36%

68,239

Other Elementary Services Occupations

7.7

2%

67,493

Animal Care and Control Services

9.1

25%

60,080

 

The RSA Future Work Centre argues that a raft of measures is needed for the most vulnerable workers, and that measures such as minimum wage increases should not be postponed during the pandemic. The government should be exploring policies such as the bonuses given to key health workers and grants for low income families in France.

In March the organisation called for a universal basic income in response to the economic fall-out. This would involve a one-off cash grant of £1500, followed by payments of £100 a week, alongside a doubling of statutory sick pay.

 

Fabian Wallace-Stephens, senior researcher at the RSA Future Work Centre, said:

“This crisis has brought into sharp focus how reliant we are on workers we take for granted – drivers, retail assistants and care workers. This research suggests that these are exactly the workers who are most in need of greater economic security.

“Building an adequate safety net for the precariat should be high on the government’s agenda, not least by ensuring that planned minimum wage increases go ahead. A universal basic income should be considered, to get cash to people quickly during the pandemic and ensure that all workers are supported.

“In particular, the government should look to countries such as France who are providing key workers with a bonus given the essential services they are providing.

“This also has implications for the government’s exit strategy – how we will come out of lockdown – as it demonstrates how crucial it is for many of these workers to get back to work as soon as possible. The government should be paying close attention to who can and cannot work from home.”

 

Contact:

Will Grimond, Media and Communications Officer, Royal Society of Arts. 07972 470 135, will.grimond@rsa.org.uk. Embargoed copy of blog & results available.

 

Notes:

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is an independent charity which believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future.

Through our ideas, research and a 30,000 strong Fellowship, we are a global community of proactive problem solvers, sharing powerful ideas, carrying out cutting-edge research and building networks. We create opportunities for people to collaborate, influence, and demonstrate practical solutions to realise change.

Our work covers a number of areas including the rise of the 'gig economy', robotics & automation; education & creative learning; and reforming public services to put communities in control.

Be the first to write a comment

0 Comments

Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related news