1. UK unemployment stands at 2.6 million. Do you think it will reach three million before a recovery takes hold?
Yes: 67% No: 15% Don't know: 18%
Engineers think things will get worse before they get better. There was a fear that the impact of public sector job cuts had yet to be fully realised and that unemployment
levels were likely to edge up. That said, many readers insisted there was work out there for engineers and that the economic situation wasn’t as bad as it had been during the most recent major economic downturn of the 1980s.
2. Youth unemployment is particularly high. Should the government give greater priority to reducing joblessness among 18- to 24-year-olds than among other age groups?
Yes: 73% No: 21% Don't know: 6%
There was real sympathy among engineers towards the plight of young people trying to find work, with almost three-quarters of readers calling for focused action to reduce unemployment among 18- to 24-year-olds.
3. Do you think unemployment benefits should be increased above the rate of inflation next year to provide greater financial assistance for those out of work?
Yes: 10% No: 85% Don't know: 5%
A vehement “no” response to this question was based on two primary factors. Many readers said that increased benefits would merely lead to a cycle of welfare dependency among the unemployed. Others felt that benefits should actually be reduced in real terms, thereby cutting the tax load on the working population. This, it was felt, would give people more disposable income, which would likely act to help stimulate the economy. Increased benefits, on the other hand, would not increase the number of jobs, several readers said.
4. Should the government ease back on its austerity drive over the coming year to help slow the rate of unemployment increase?
Yes: 32% No: 58% Don't know: 10%
The job market might be tough, but the majority of engineers do not think the government should abandon its austerity plan to provide much-needed financial stimulus. Many readers said the economic situation in Greece and Italy showed it was imperative that the UK reduce its debt and protect its AAA credit rating. However, a notable number of respondants said that when the economic situation did start to improve, the government should prioritise spending on large-scale infrastructure projects to help drive a jobs recovery.
5. Are you worried that engineers will be affected by job losses at your company over the next 12 months?
Yes: 30% No: 65% Don't know: 5%
The lack of worry shown in the responses to this question reflected a strong sentiment among engineers that the economic situation didn’t feel as bad as the way it was being portrayed in the media. Many readers noted that constant negative reporting of the economy in newspapers and on television had led to a self-perpetuating feeling of despondency. But lots of respondents said that their companies were doing well and were actively recruiting engineers. Two-thirds of our readers, therefore, claimed that they weren’t particularly bothered about the threat of job losses within their own organisations. Some even claimed that engineering was having a “good economic crisis”, and was therefore ideally positioned to bounce back strongly.
6. Are you confident that the private sector will be able to create enough new jobs over the coming year to employ those people likely to lose their jobs in the public sector?
Yes: 8% No: 84% Don't know: 8%
If there was a general feeling that engineering was doing quite well, that air of positivity wasn’t extended to other sectors. Readers felt that the government was pursuing a programme of job reduction among civil servants without creating the necessary stimuli for job creation in the private sector.
7. Are you happy with the amount of emphasis that the government is placing on implementing measures to tackle unemployment?
Yes: 25% No: 59% Don't know: 16%
Almost two-thirds said they weren’t happy with the government’s performance in this area. But others put high unemployment down to global economic circumstances.