Skills and Employment Survey 2012

Skills and Employment Survey 2012

Project Name: Skills and Employment Survey 2012
Project Leader:
Alan Felstead, Duncan Gallie & Francis Green
Other Project Team Members:
Handie Inanc, Golo Henseke
Skills and Employment Survey 2012

Project Details

The Skills and Employment Survey 2012 (SES2012) is a national study of people aged 20-65 who are in paid work. The survey focuses upon the work that people do and how working life has changed over time. The 2012 survey is the latest in a series of studies which began in 1986.  A total of 3,200 took part in the 2012 survey. First findings were presented in a series of short reports (see below).

In 2014 a randomly selected sample of those interviewed in 2012 were re-interviewed.

Research Team

The project research team responsible for the 2012 survey and the follow-up comprises:

(Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University), who is also Visiting Professor at the LLAKES Centre, UCL Institute of Education, London, which is co-hosting the project.

(Nuffield College, Oxford)

(LLAKES, UCL Institute of Education)

(Research Officer, LLAKES, UCL Institute of Education)

(OECD, Paris).

Research findings

Project publications:


Selected recent studies that use data from the survey:


Felstead, F., F. Green and D.Gallie (forthcoming July 2015) (eds.). , Oxford University Press.

Journal Papers

Green, F., A. Felstead, D. Gallie, H. Inanc and N. Jewson (forthcoming). "The Declining Volume of Workers' Training in Britain." British Journal of Industrial Relations. Earlier DP version

Felstead, A., D. Gallie, Green, F.  and H. Inanc (2015, forthcoming). “”. Human Resource Management Journal. doi: 10.1111/1748-8583.12071

Green, F., A. Felstead, D. Gallie and H. Inanc (forthcoming, 2015). "." Journal of Happiness Studies.

Inanc, H., Y. Zhou, A. Felstead, D. Gallie and F. Green (forthcoming). "Direct Participation and Employee Learning at Work." Work and Occupations

Gallie, D, Felstead, A, Green, F and Inanc, H, (2014) ‘The quality of work in Britain over the economic crisis’ International Review of Sociology — Revue Internationale de Sociologie, Vol. 24, No. 2, 1–18.

Discussion Papers

Green, F. and G. Henseke (2014). UCL Institute of Education, LLAKES Research Paper 50.


Hidden Sins Of Economic Crisis: The Problem Of Work In Recession And Austerity. LLAKES blog, 26/3/2015.

For a full list of publications arising from this survey, see .


First Findings Reports.

Fear at Work in Britain

  • Fear of job loss has increased sharply, especially over the period following the recession of 2008-09. Men are consistently more worried about job loss than women. But the increase in concern about job loss has been particularly great among female employees.
  • In 2012 just under one third (31%) of employees were anxious about unfair treatment at work. Just over half of all employees (52%) reported anxiety about loss of job status.
  • In the past both fear of job loss and fear of unfair treatment at work were far more common in the private than in the public sector. In 2012 fear of job loss was higher in the public than in the private sector, while fear of unfair treatment had become more similar to the level in the private sector. Fear of status loss was also higher in the public sector.
  • Fear of unfair treatment and fear of loss of status were both increased by the experience of technical and organisational change in recent years. An important factor offsetting fear at work was the degree of participation allowed to employees with respect to organisational decisions.

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Work Intensification in Britain

  • Work intensification has resumed in Britain since 2006. Both the speed of work has quickened and the pressures of working to tight deadlines have also risen to record highs.
  • Work has intensified more sharply for women, and especially for women working full-time who have experienced some of the largest rises in work intensity since 2006.
  • Work intensification is associated with technological change, which is therefore effort-biased. Although the resumption of work intensification may also be due to the recession, contrary to some predictions high work intensity is not associated on average with downsizing.

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Job-related Well-being Control in Britain

  • Happiness at work can be measured by ‘enthusiasm’ for, and ‘contentment’ with, the job. In both these dimensions, job-related well-being in British workplaces fell between 2006 and 2012. There was a small drop in the average population-wide score on the Enthusiasm scale, and a sharp fall in the score on the Contentment scale.
  • The fall in the Enthusiasm scale was only for men, and greatest among those with low education achievements.
  • The falls can partly be accounted for by rising insecurity, work intensification, and increased downsizing.
  • There was also a notable rise in Job Stress, and a fall in Job Satisfaction.

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Skills at Work in Britain

  • Qualification requirements of jobs have risen over the last quarter of a century. By 2012 jobs requiring degrees on entry reached an all time high, while jobs requiring no qualifications fell to historically low levels.
  • Yet, overall the evidence for continued upskilling is mixed, because there has also been a shortening of training and learning times for jobs – a reversal of trends previously recorded. The importance of computing skills at work continued to grow, albeit less rapidly than in the past, but the rise in most other generic skills came to a halt.
  • For the two decades from 1986 to 2006 the prevalence of over-qualification had been rising, but it fell between 2006 and 2012. Although mismatches remain quite high, this turnaround may signal more effective use of qualifications at work by employers.

Training in Britain

  • The volume of training has fallen: the proportion of British workers engaged annually in more than ten hours’ training declined from 38% in 2006 to 34% in 2012. This fall is especially concentrated among women.
  • There have been no changes between 2006 and 2012 in the extent of certification of training or in its perceived contribution to skills enhancement. But fewer people are satisfied with the training they receive, and fewer report that their training helps them to enjoy their job more.
  • The quality of training, like its volume, is greater for those workers with more prior education; this gradation reinforces inequality.
  • There is a rising demand by workers at all levels of education to receive workplace training.

Job Control in Britain

  • Overall, the level of task discretion (employees’ immediate control over their work tasks) has been stable since 2001, following a sharp decline in the 1990s. But the trends since 2006 have been different for men and women, with women seeing a small rise, and men a further fall in task discretion.
  • There was a rise in the proportion of employees working in semi-autonomous teams (those with significant control over their work activities) from 14% in 2006 to 18% in 2012. This rise reverses a previous long-term decline.
  • Between 2006 and 2012 there was also a rise in the proportion of jobs using self-managed teams, from 4% to 7%.
  • Halting a previous upward trend, there has been little change between 2006 and 2012 in formal provisions for participation in wider organisational decisions. Yet, the proportion of employees who report that they have a great deal or quite a lot of say over work organisation declined from 36% to 27% between 2001 and 2012.

Welsh Reports

Well-Being, Insecurity and Attitudes to Work in Wales

  • Working hours are shorter, and job-related stress and work strain are lower in Wales than
    in the Rest of Britain or London and the South East.
  • Workers in Wales attach greater importance to employment and exhibit higher levels of
    organisational commitment compared to other parts of Britain.
  • Perceived levels of job security are higher in Wales than elsewhere in Britain. However,
    the costs associated with job loss are greater in Wales reflecting the relative lack of
    comparable employment alternatives.

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Job Skills, Qualification Use And Training in Wales

  • Jobs are less skilled in Wales than in the Rest of Britain or London and the South East, with
    part-time jobs in Wales among the lowest skilled of all.
  • The mismatch between the supply of, and the demand for, qualifications is proportionately
    larger in Wales than in other parts of Britain. However, the overqualified in Wales are
    better able to use their skills once in work; this reverses a pattern found in 2006.
  • The intensity of training is lower in Wales and it fell faster between 2006 and 2012 than
    anywhere elsewhere. Both the requirement to learn at work and the capacity to learn from
    other colleagues also fell.

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Skills and the Quality of Work in Wales 2006 - 2012 Main Report

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Technical Reports

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Skills and Employment survey 2012 Technical report prepared for Cardiff University

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Skills and Employment Survey 2012:
Technical Briefing


Access to the anonymized data sets in the survey series are available to authorized users via the Economic and Social Data Service at .

SN 7467 - Skills and Employment Survey Series, 1986, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2012

SN 7466 - Skills and Employment Survey 2012

SN 6004 – Skills Survey, 2006

SN 4972 – Skills Survey, 2001

SN 3993 – Skills Survey, 1997

SN 5368 – Employment in Britain, 1992

SN 2798 – Social Change and Economic Life Initiative, 1986


The 2012 Skills and Employment Survey was supported by the ESRC/UKCES Strategic Partnership.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organization for funding research on economic and social issues.  It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector.  Its total budget for 2011/12 is £203 million.  At any one time, the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes ().

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) is a Non-Departmental Public Body providing strategic leadership on skills and employment issues in the four nations of the UK. Together, the UKCES’ Commissioners comprise a social partnership that includes CEOs of large and small employers across a wide range of sectors as well as trade unions and representatives from the Devolved Administrations ().

In addition, the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) funded a boost to the sample in Wales. WISERD is a research centre funded by the ESRC and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales ().

The 2014 follow-up survey was supported by UKCES with core funding from LLAKES and with supplementary funding from the ESRC/UKCES strategic partnership.