Posted on 21st July 2021


Research by Totaljobs has found that the pandemic has opened the public's eyes and increased their respect for the professions that society relied upon to keep it moving in the past 18 months. The pandemic has changed the shape of societies, splitting the workforce into 'essential' and 'non-essential' roles. This has shown us the unseen and vital value of jobs that the public may not have realised before.

According to the research, nursing is now the most respected profession in the UK. The profession has gained a net 55% increase in respect from the public since the pandemic.

But some professions have gained an all-new level of respect in the UK that they simply did not have before, including essential retail workers (55%), postal carriers (54%), food delivery workers (54%), waste collection (56%) and virologists (53%).

There are two professions, however, which lost respect during the pandemic - those who are often seen as the bearers of bad news. Journalists (-3%) and politicians (-16% to -18%) have indeed both seen respect for careers diminished in the minds of the public.

Changes in opinions varied across different generations. Whilst Gen Z most valued doctors, Millennials most valued warehouse workers and cleaners. For Gen X it was funeral service operators and Baby Boomers saw the highest value in nurses.

Respect comes with an expectation of a fair salary. According to the research, nurses are perceived to be the most underpaid, with 59% of people surveyed thinking these professionals are not paid enough. After over a year on the frontline, the UK also thinks that people working in cleaning (50%) essential retail (43%), food delivery (42%), and social care (39%) should be paid more too. And in line with being the least respected and losing the most respect during the pandemic, politicians are thought to be the most overpaid, with 60% of people agreeing.

So, are all these changes in attitude leading to changes in career aspirations? With the pandemic shining a spotlight on key workers, many people have been inspired to take on these roles themselves.

Younger people are the most open to a career change; 1 in 5 (19%) of Gen Z are considering switching to nursing or medicine. Older generations were most tempted to become a teacher.

And despite being considered underpaid, social care roles gained popularity during the pandemic, with a 39% increase in applications year on year.

A quarter of people (26%) said their opinions were impacted by Clap for Carers. But sadly, this public appreciation is not matched by wages: with 1 in 2 of the care workers looking to leave the sector saying that low pay is a factor.

As for the key workers themselves, how do they perceive this new lauded status for their chosen careers? Previous Totaljobs research found that 63% of key workers felt undeserving or uncomfortable when praised with the titles such as 'hero'. What's more, a further 24% think the use of hero goes too far in idolising key workers, making them feel uncomfortable.

Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs says "Whether a doctor or a delivery driver, those individuals who have worked as key workers over the past year have gone above and beyond to continue to serve our communities throughout the pandemic. Today's research reveals, quite rightly, that these professions have been re-evaluated by many and found further acclaim and admiration during a time of crisis.

It is also really encouraging to see people across the generations express a desire to switch careers to a key industry off the back of the examples set by key workers, especially amongst younger generations.

At Totaljobs, we believe nobody should feel stuck in their job, and we want people to have the freedom to find the right job for them. Many people see work as much more than a pay cheque. For many, there also needs to be a sense of meaning and purpose which an increasing number of people feel they can gain through the career paths that have proved so essential to society over the last year or so.

"Not everyone will choose to work in front line industries, however that does not mean we're not looking for purpose and recognition in our careers generally. As we move forward into a post-pandemic world, I would encourage all employers, regardless of their industry, to consider how they can demonstrate to their employees that their work and engagement during what has been a challenging year for all, is valued and recognised."

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