Retail workers the most unhappy in the UK

This Blue Monday, new data reveals that Retail workers are the most miserable staff in the UK, according to research from Adzuna.

The survey, conducted by the job search engine in January 2019, asked 1,000 UK workers to define how satisfied they are with their salary, as well as their expectations for a pay rise this year. It also drilled down into UK regions and industry sectors to reveal which workers are most disappointed with their current earnings.

Forty per cent of Retail workers are unsatisfied, or very unsatisfied with their salary, making them the unhappiest workers in the UK. This is perhaps unsurprising considering the current average salary for Retail workers sits at £25,243, 1.6 per cent lower than a year ago, and significantly under the average UK wage of £33,424. The outlook for the sector is also looking gloomy, with over 1,100 shops closing down on the high streets in the first half of 2018. Several high profile failures have rocked the sector, including House of Fraser collapsing into administration, profit warnings at Debenhams and Toys R Us closing.

UK’s happiest and unhappiest industries

Following closely behind the retail industry, Charity & Not-for-Profit workers are also struggling, with 40 per cent proving despondent on pay, including 20 per cent who are very unsatisfied. Other suffering sectors include Science workers (38 per cent unhappy), Customer Services staff (35 per cent dissatisfied) and Energy Oil & Gas employees (33 per cent unhappy).

Engineers are the happiest sector workers, with 58 per cent either satisfied or very satisfied with their pay packets. This is closely followed by Healthcare & Medical at 55 per cent and Teaching jobs at 53 per cent. In fact, teaching jobs have seen the biggest annual pay rise of any industry, with average salaries climbing 15.9 per cent year-on-year to £30,889 – although this has been propped up by private teachers and tutors charging higher salaries.

Yorkshire & Humberside workers grumbling most on pay

Workers in Yorkshire & Humberside are most dissatisfied with their pay, with 44 per cent proving unsatisfied including 28 per cent confessing to being very unsatisfied. Average advertised salaries in Yorkshire currently sit at only £29,443, the second lowest of any region and significantly below average pay across the UK (£33,424).

Yorkshire workers also proved among the most pessimistic on pay, with only 59 per cent of employees expecting a pay rise in 2019, second only to the North East (51per cent). The region has seen a 2.4 per cent annual rise in average salaries, but has lagged behind nationwide increases of 3.9 per cent as pay rates have stagnated in the North in recent months.

The South East is the second most dissatisfied region, with 41 per cent of workers feeling underpaid, followed by the South West (37 per cent) and Wales (36per cent).

By comparison, the happiest location for workers is London, with 56 per cent of employees saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with their salaries. This is followed by the North East, where 51 per cent of people are satisfied or very satisfied with their salaries. The North East hiring hub Sunderland currently has one of the highest levels of competition for jobs, with 2.6 jobseekers for each vacancy on the jobs market, and the region as a whole boasts the highest competition rate for England (1.2). As a result, workers in the region may be counting their blessings to be in a job, rather than focusing on climbing the salary ladder.

Widespread salary misery across the UK

Widespread salary dissatisfaction is spreading across the UK, with almost a third (28 per cent) of workers unhappy with their current pay-packets.

Across the UK as a whole, just 15 per cent of employees are completely satisfied with their current salary. Overall, satisfaction rates have improved from January 2015 when 52 per cent of Brits said they were unhappy, but there is still substantial work to be done.

Furthermore, two-thirds of UK workers believe they are due a pay rise in January 2019, with 66 per cent of women believing they are due a rise, compared to 65 per cent of men.

Women becoming more ambitious about pay

Interestingly, the proportion of women backing themselves on pay has risen from 55 per cent in January 2015, suggesting women are becoming more ambitious about their salaries. In 2018, all companies in Great Britain were required to start reporting on their gender pay gap, exposing pay differences in the workplace and encouraging conversations about gender parity. Compared to four years ago, this rise in the proportion of women believing they are due a pay rise suggests it may be getting easier for women to have conversations about pay in the workplace.

But there remains work to be done, with the latest figures from the ONS showing the gender pay gap currently sits at 8.6 per cent among full-time employees, and many traditionally female industries, like Retail, currently suffering salary stagnation.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, comments,

It’s unsurprising, and yet disheartening, to see that retail is the unhappiest sector in the UK, as consumers swap ‘bricks for clicks’. However, generally it’s clear that a salary malaise is spreading across the country. Political uncertainty and a stuttering economy meant salaries stalled at the end of last year, despite vacancy levels remaining high and skilled workers hard to come by. As a result, the majority of workers feel like they deserve a pay rise this January.

Interested in the future of work? We recommend this Future of Work Summit 2019







Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

Aphrodite has had a variety of high profile industry clients as a freelancer, and previously worked for a number of years as an Editor and Journalist for

Aphrodite is also a professional painter.