Women more concerned than men about future job prospects, PwC survey of 2,000 UK workers finds

Apr 22, 2021

Women are more likely than men to be concerned about their future job prospects, a PwC survey of 2,000 UK workers (and 32,500 globally) has found. The study also shows that workers from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely than those who are white to feel their current jobs could be made obsolete within the next five years due to advancing technology. 

PwC’s Upskilling Hopes and Fears 2021 study finds that fewer than one third (29%) of female workers feel positively about how the future world of work is likely to affect them compared to nearly half (45%) of men. More women (41%) also say they feel nervous about what the future holds for them than men (29%). 

The findings follow a separate PwC study released at the start of March which showed that women are more likely to have been furloughed, as female-dominated industries such as accommodation and food services, and arts and entertainment were most affected by lockdowns. 

Just over one third (37%) of women responding to the latest survey feel that technological advancements will improve their future job prospects compared to 44% of men. Women are more likely to favour doing a job that makes a societal difference over one that maximises their income. Women, though, are more positive about believing they will earn enough money to pay for further education or retraining.

According to the study, workers from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to think their jobs may not exist in the near future than those who are white. More than one quarter (27%) of respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds believe it is likely their job could be made obsolete within five years compared to 18% of white employees.  And nearly half (43%) of workers from ethnic minority backgrounds say they lack access to technology which in turn limits their opportunity to learn new skills - higher than the one third (33%) of white employees who responded in the same way. 

Katy Bennett, people and organisation director at PwC, said:

“Given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s jobs, it’s no surprise that they feel less positive about the future of work. However, it is important that organisations think carefully about how the introduction of new technology and ways of working will impact their female employees. If women are less positive, they may be less immediately active in engaging with new technology and reskilling programmes, with a resulting knock-on impact on their experiences at work. 


“It is also concerning to see the larger proportion of workers from ethnic minority backgrounds who believe their jobs may not exist in the next five years. Employers need to act now to ensure that ethnic minorities are not disproportionately impacted by changes to jobs and that opportunities to reskill are identified and highlighted to these groups. Concerns about future job security can also have a very real impact now to wellbeing.  Appropriate monitoring is not possible without high quality data. As such, a crucial first step to ensuring that future workforce planning is fair and equitable is working to collect data on the diversity of the current workforce.”

The study, which surveyed 32,500 people globally, broadly found UK workers are less likely to believe they will be impacted by technology than the worldwide average, with the majority believing that traditional jobs are not going away. This is despite previous PwC research showing that 30% of jobs were at risk of being lost to automation by the mid-2030s.

Nearly half (48%) of workers globally believe that traditional employment will not be around in the future, compared to 36% in the UK. Paradoxically, just 37% of UK workers feel positively about how the future world of work will affect them in contrast to 50% globally. This is despite a greater percentage (41%) of UK workers feeling that technological advances could improve their job prospects rather than impede them (28%).

The study suggests concerns about future income and access to new technology could provide barriers to upskilling the UK workforce. More than one third (35%) of UK workers say they lack access to the technology, which limits their opportunity to develop new skills. And nearly half (44%) believe they will not earn enough money to pay for further education or retraining -  this rises to 50% among 18-34 year olds. One in five people surveyed say they still do not have the digital skills needed to carry out their current jobs. While 62% of UK workers say they are ready to learn new skills or retrain completely in order to remain employable, this is below the global average of 77%.

Fiona Camenzuli, people and organisation leader at PwC, said:

“Many of the jobs that have been lost to the pandemic have been in industries most prone to automation, meaning these jobs are unlikely to return. Upskilling should reduce social inequality but unless there is proper access to training it could end up doing the opposite. Government and business leaders have an invaluable role to play here. They need to work together to intensify efforts to ensure people in the most-at risk industries and groups get the opportunities they need. While automation and technological disruption are inevitable, we need to ensure that the net results for the workforce are positive so that society is able to reap the rewards. Not everyone needs to be able to write code, but they do need to understand how technology will impact them and how their skills can be put to best use.”


Notes to editors

Between 26 January, 2021 and 8 February, 2021, PwC commissioned a survey of 32,517 members of the general public. Respondents included workers, business owners, contract workers, students, unemployed people looking for work, and those on furlough or who were temporarily laid off. The survey polled workers in 19 countries:  Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UAE, UK, and the US.

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