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Economist Says Britain's Workers Love Their Jobs Despite Facing Increasing Levels of Stress

Originally published 6 December 2000

Research by University of Warwick economist Professor Andrew Oswald reveals that British workers still show a high degree of job satisfaction despite a significant increase in job stress levels in the last decade.

In a speech to the National Conference of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in London on Tuesday 28th November he said that levels of job satisfaction are still high in Britain. For example, on a standard numerical scale from 1 ("I am not satisfied at all") up to 7 ("I am completely satisfied with my job"), the single most common answer is a 6. Though, in the last decade Britons' job satisfaction did fall.

However stress, measured on a standard GHQ scale, significantly increased during the decade. The following table derived from the British Household Panel Study Data: 1991-1998 shows GHQ Mental Stress Levels of UK Workers over Time. GHQ is a standard measure of mental distress and psychological ill-health named after the General Health Questionnaire. It is widely used by British doctors, psychologists, and social scientists.

Mean (ie average) Stress Scores Through the Decade
Year Average GHQ

1991 10.17 (4.33)
1992 10.69 (4.72)
1993 10.65 (4.87)
1994 10.80 (5.02)
1995 10.92 (5.09)
1996 10.94 (5.14)
1997 10.87 (5.18)
1998 10.90 (5.16)

In his speech Professor Oswald also noted that:

  1. Levels of job satisfaction in the public sector declined especially sharply during the 1990s.
  2. Job satisfaction is U-shaped in age. It is higher among women than men, lower among blacks that whites, slightly lower in union workplaces than non-union ones, high in small workplaces, and largest of all in not-for-profit workplaces. The self-employed also report high job satisfaction.
  3. It is Britons with university degrees, surprisingly, who report the lowest levels of work satisfaction.

For further information please contact:
Professor Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523510 (Office),
01367 860005 (Home)
email (office) (home)