High employment


The UK can only benefit from having a large number of people in highly skilled, well paid jobs. High employment levels increase financial independence, wellbeing and personal satisfaction for individuals while improving equality across society and raising tax revenues for government.

Recent figures show an improvement in the number of people in work. While this is welcome, significant problems remain: the number of young people out of work remains high and job growth is distributed unevenly across the UK.

There are problems, too, around the issue of needing to work long hours just to make ends meet, lack of job security and wanting full-time work but only getting part-time jobs.

Addressing high employment means giving more people the opportunities to fulfil their potential and giving others the opportunity to reduce overwork.

More people in work: By the end of 2013 the UK’s employment rate was 72.1%. This is reasonably healthy, but still lags behind some of our European peers. Certain groups, including the long-term sick, the disabled and young people, struggle to find work. For example there are over one million young people who are so-called ‘NEETS’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training) for whom full-time work is a remote prospect, and this figure is rising as the chart below shows.

Fulfilling potential: Some demographic groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, are badly under-represented in leadership positions. This creates demographic imbalances, reducing the diversity of the UK’s talent pool and stifling innovation.

Work-life balance: Research shows that the relationship between income and wellbeing follows a classic bell curve: wellbeing rises as income rises to a certain point, beyond which wellbeing starts to decrease.

A similar correlation exists between working hours and wellbeing.17 Research by the New Economics Foundation shows that those who work over 55 hours a week experience higher anxiety and lower wellbeing.


An economy that works will provide higher levels of employment across the UK, creating new jobs and opportunities for groups such as school leavers, with the flexibility for people to work hours that match their aspirations.



While the individual benefits of employment are clear, there are also substantial macro-economic rewards:

More productive economy: Increases in the productive capacity of the economy and higher spending power inevitably boost economic activity

Skills development: An economy that works will enable individuals to develop the skills that businesses are currently lacking

Healthier national budget: Rising income tax receipts and spending will contribute to the national budget

Higher quality of life: Reducing unemployment increases wellbeing and helps reduce social and economic deprivation


Business is the main source of employment in the UK, with over 80% of jobs in the private sector. As such, its role in achieving high levels of employment is critical.

Business needs a stable and motivated workforce, leading the way in know-how and expertise and making the UK a more attractive place for investment.

Business can play its part by investing in skills and training, enabling the economy to compete. Initiatives such as the 5% Club and M&S’ ‘Make your Mark’ youth scheme are already helping younger workers make the move into employment. Shifting to high labour, low resource circular models will also boost employment, while support for flexible employment models will enable more people with outside commitments to enter the workplace.


Investment in job generation schemes to promote employment, make people job-ready, and to support small and medium-sized enterprises that account for over half the UK’s employment.

Promote skills development by providing strategic leadership and long-term direction, for instance through investment in training, supporting training institutions and driving demand for skills in a way that helps vulnerable groups.

Using tax policies to make it easier for employers to hire or train additional staff – particularly from those groups who struggle in the labour market.

Promote flexible/part-time work as job-sharing and part-time work can increase the number of jobs available while also improving wellbeing and spreading skills.

Provide education as continued investment in education will help school leavers acquire the skills and qualifications they need to find work.

Proportion of 16–24 year olds not in education, employment or training (NEET)

Source: Please download or view our Report online for a full list




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