Tuesday 4 May 2021 10:16 am

Exclusive: Four out of five on furlough consider switching to jobs they are overqualified for

Four in five furloughed Brits are considering applying for jobs they are overqualified for if they cannot return to their existing employment.

Some 62 per cent of respondents feared they would not have a job to return to after furlough, according to new research by consultancy firm NTT DATA UK, shared with City A.M. this afternoon.

More than three-quarters (79 per cent) were considering applying for jobs they are overqualified for, reflecting further pessimism about a post-pandemic job market.  

People aged between 45 and 49 were most likely to consider applying for jobs below their skill level (84 per cent), compared to 68 per cent of furloughed workers over 50.

Read more: Number of Brits on furlough falls by 1m as lockdown eases

Those on furlough for a longer period of time were marginally more likely to consider lower skilled jobs (80 per cent) than those who were only furloughed since December 2020 (74 per cent). 

Furlough scheme

The findings of the survey of furloughed people suggest widespread uncertainty once the furlough scheme comes to an end in September of this year has not diminished.

The UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which began in March 2020, has been vital in protecting jobs and skills in the UK labour market.

The scheme has been extended multiple times, the latest extension being in December 2020, when the Chancellor announced the scheme was to continue until April 2021 and then until September of this year.

Read more: Furlough cash: Businesses repay £760m as HMRC cracks down on fraudsters

Each time the scheme has been due to end previously, fears of millions of job losses have surfaced. The research found that fears of such losses have not dissipated, even with the recent extension of the scheme.

Variation between sectors

In every industry surveyed, the majority of furloughed employees were considering applying for jobs below their skill level. But there was some variation between sectors.

Industries where people were most likely to consider applying for jobs they are overqualified for included travel (88 per cent), hospitality (86 per cent) and automotive (83 per cent).

Read more: Mayor of London election: Where do the major candidates stand on the Covid recovery?

Fewer respondents from science and pharma (67 per cent), manufacturing (70 per cent) and healthcare (71 per cent) were considering doing so. 

“These findings are unsurprising given the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on industries such as hospitality and travel,” Neil Trussler, chief delivery officer at NTT DATA UK, told City A.M.

“Communication will be critical in building employer-employee trust, and avoiding a damaging skills drain in the UK economy as workers look elsewhere for a job,” he added.

Willingness to reskill 

Uncertainty and concerns about job security may be impacting people’s willingness to learn new skills.

A job market overflowing with workers overqualified for the jobs to which they are applying may be leading to some individuals seeing learning new skills as unjustified.

The survey found that nearly a third of people (31 per cent) have not been learning any new skills while on furlough.

A tenth of respondents (9 per cent) said they believed they did not need to learn new skills, while 16 per cent cited lack of self-belief and motivation as their reason for not learning new skills. 

Read more: How strong might the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery be?

Some findings on reskilling were more promising. Only a small proportion of respondents were held back from accessing online training because of lack of access to the internet (3 per cent) or because they had no device to use for training (5 per cent).

Over half of furloughed workers (52 per cent) said they were doing free training online, and 11 per cent reported that their employer had provided them with training to do whilst on furlough. 

“Even after mass vaccinations enable some form of normality to return this year, the scars of the pandemic will create a difficult job market,” Trussler said.

“The economy has gone through a radical transformation, and the roles and skills requirements businesses are searching for have fundamentally shifted. Technology kept businesses going in 2020, and many will be keen to build on their success in the digital economy,” he continued.

“Given the existing shortage of tech skills in the UK economy, those who learn skills in this area will be in high demand,” Trussler concluded.

Read more: More than one in 10 mid-sized businesses found errors in their furlough claims

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