Current employment, employment histories, transitions in and out of employment and career progression – Understanding Society can be used to explore a wide range of employment issues.

The quality of work has major implications for long-term career progression and for a wide range of wellbeing outcomes for people and their families. With the rise of non-standard work and self-employment, the nature and quality of employment has become a key policy debate.

Professor Andrew Charlwood

Champion for Employment

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Andy Charlwood

What data do Understanding Society collect? 

Understanding Society is a study of people within their household context. We interview all adults over 16 about their circumstances and lives. Understanding Society is longitudinal, so follows the same people over time. A sub-set of the Understanding Society sample can be traced back to 1991 using the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). This design means we collect information which captures the complexity of personal and household interactions with employment; progression, career breaks, educational background, ethnicity and the local economy. 

We ask questions annually about people's current employment, second jobs and non-employment - job-seeking, retirement and details of their last job. We also ask about job satisfaction. Every two years we ask about commuting and people's working conditions, which includes pay rises and bonuses, job security, flexible working, trade union membership and future job plans. Women on maternity leave are asked about their return to work and both men and women are asked about planning for retirement. 

Topic Guide

Find out more about using Understanding Society for research on employment and work conditions. This topic guide includes worked examples and questionnaire information. 

Questionnaire grid

Find out about the key topic areas available in the questionnaire that focus on employment. The grid includes a summary of the employment moduels and how often they are repeated. 

Podcast: The impact of working hours and job security on long term health

Listen to ProfessorTarani Chandola on the relationship between working hours and work-life balance and Dr Claire Niedzwiedz on financial security and physical health. 

Working Paper: Labour mobility and earnings in the UK, 1992-2016

Fabian Postel-Vinay and Alireza Sepahsalari combine data from BHPS and UKHLS to construct time series of aggregate worker stock, worker flows and earnings. 

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