The Meaning of Work Report



We asked workers to rank the most important factors in their employment from a list of 18, including financial benefits (such as pensions), perks (like free meals or early finishes on a Friday) and the length and quality of the commute.

Salary was ranked as the most important factor by 57%, yet nearly a third of UK workers (31%) are dissatisfied with their current level of pay. This is, perhaps, unsurprising given that average pay is still below where it was 10 years ago, in real terms. Over half (52%) of employees said they would consider leaving their current role if their pay didn’t increase in the next 1-2 years.

While salary is most important, other financial benefits fall way down the pecking order. Pensions, bonuses and private health insurance were rated among the five most important factors at work by just 20% – less important than colleagues (40%), a convenient commute (34%) and learning new things (24%).

Despite the importance of salary, only 42% of job postings on Indeed list any salary information – up from 37% in 2016. While this is an improvement, it is still significantly below the 50% mark, which begs the question – why aren’t employers giving jobseekers easy access to the most important piece of information they want?


Which sectors are most likely to list salary information?

We scoured our platform to understand which sectors are meeting jobseekers’ expectations when it comes to providing salary information from day one of an individual’s job search, and which are trailing.

Top five

  1. Community & Social Services, e.g. Social Workers and Care Assistants – 57%

  2. Protective Services, e.g. Police Officers and Security Guards – 55%

  3. Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance, e.g., Cleaners, Housekeepers, Gardeners – 51%

  4. Healthcare Support, e.g. Healthcare Assistants and Pharmacy Assistants – 50%

  5. Personal Care and Service, e.g., Barbers, Stylists – 49%

Bottom five

  1. Computing & Mathematics, e.g. Software Engineers, Developers, System Administrators – 38%

  2. Food Preparation and Serving, e.g., Chefs, Waiters, Baristas – 38%

  3. Architecture and Engineering, e.g., Structural Engineers, Project Engineers – 37%

  4. Arts & Entertainment, e.g. Designers, Editors, Artists – 33%

  5. Sales, e.g., Retail Assistants, Store Managers – 33%

Source: Indeed, January to April 2019.

Given the status of salary among the UK workforce, it was interesting to discover that the majority (56%) of workers back full pay transparency, which would see salary information made publicly available, as it is in Sweden. Women are more comfortable with this notion, with 58% supporting this compared to 54% of men. The measure – which has been called for by some politicians, trade unions, think tanks and campaign groups as a possible measure to address pay inequality– is now opposed directly by just 33% of full-time UK employees.

We also wanted to understand how much people felt they needed to earn to ensure happiness. Around half (46%) of the respondents said it was less than £40,000. So we delved into the Indeed platform to uncover which roles are most demanded by employers in the £35,000-£40,000 bracket – with the top ten featuring teachers, specialist healthcare roles and vets.

1. Physics teachers
2. Podiatrists
3. History teachers
4. Occupational therapists
5. Physical Therapists

6. Veterinarians
7. Audiologists
8. Computer Science Teachers
9. Speech-Language Therapists
10. Dentists


Civil and Aerospace Engineers, IT Analysts, Dieticians and Nutritionists fell just outside of the top ten.

Source: Indeed, January to April 2019. Most demanded roles are defined as those with the lowest number of clicks per job posting (i.e., where jobseeker interest is low relative to demand from employers) in the specified salary range.


How differently do men and women think when it comes to pay?

Gender diversity and equality in the workplace is a much-discussed and explored topic, particularly when it comes to how much people earn. We discovered a number of gender discrepancies surrounding work and pay.

Firstly, 60% of men said salary was important to them compared to 54% of women.


According to the ONS, median pay for men is £31,800 whereas for women it is £26,100 – a difference of £5,700.


Interestingly, our study reveals women’s peak career salary expectations are significantly lower than men’s. Women, on average, expect to earn £45,800 while men expect to earn £62,900 in today’s money – a sizeable difference in expectations of £17,100.


Women also say they would aspire to earn £44,600 a year to ensure happiness, £13,700 less than the salary men claimed they would need to make them happy.



What about the Gender Pay Gap?

The introduction of mandatory reporting on the gender pay gap for some firms has further highlighted the problem of pay imbalance between men and women. The 2018/19 Gender Pay Gap reporting figures show the average company reported a median gender pay gap of 11.9%, so we wanted to examine workers’ reactions to the ongoing discussion around gender at work.

Gender Pay Gap reporting is not well understood

Half of people questioned (52%) don’t know how to score their current employer’s performance on the gender pay gap, with over a third (37%) not sure if their organisation has released any gender pay gap information.

Gender Pay Gap reporting is not valued

Only 17% of people say the gender pay gap has a positive impact on the way they feel about their job and loyalty to their employer, with 53% saying that a gender pay gap would not impact their decision to leave or stay at an organisation. The gender difference of its impact was stark – 69% of men said it would not impact their decision to stay compared to 37% of women.


The Indeed View

Despite huge rhetoric about purpose at work, our study clearly shows that when it comes to work, it’s money that drives us first and foremost. Such is our interest in salary, that we’re willing to be open and honest with others about what we earn if it means we get to know what others earn too.

For employers looking to retain staff and keep employees happy, pay is still the most powerful lever. It could also be the key to attracting the right talent into the business in the first place.