As the economy slowly recovers American workers are showing greater confidence regarding their jobs.

The Harris Poll Jobs and Benefits Security Index shows there is growing optimism toward the prospects of receiving improved health care and retirement benefits, and salary increases. However, the sentiment is juxtaposed the sentiment of raised expectations of more work for the same pay and concern about being replaced by a lower cost employee.

Workers show an increased belief that they will receive better healthcare benefits in the next three months (20%, up from 16% each in April and March) and that they will receive better retirement benefits in that time (19%, up considerably from 13% in April and up slightly from 18% in March). Workers also show slight growth from April in the perceived likelihood that they'll get a raise from their employer in the next three months (from 29% in April to 32% in May), though this is still down slightly from the March level (34%).

On the flipside of that equation, 18% of U.S. workers – up from 15% in April – believe they will be replaced by lower cost employees. Also, workers are increasingly afraid they will have to work more without getting more money (56%, up from 53% in April and 50% in March).

Harris Interactive President and Chief Executive Officer Al Angrisani, also the former Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Reagan, notes that “The [Index] is pointing to some renewed hope in key aspects of workers’ outlooks for the immediate future, reflecting the improved jobs outlook recently released by the Department of Labor.”

“That said,” continues Angrisani, “the slight rise in the unemployment rate indicates that hiring continues to be an issue, as reflected in mounting concern among employees that they will be expected to do more for the same or less pay, or that their jobs will be displaced by lower cost options. Ultimately this increased pressure on the worker will lead to worker frustration and could dramatically impact company productivity overall.”

Worsening worker fears on these show ties to stated expectations that they will see responsibilities passed to either technological or manpower alternatives in the immediate future. Nearly half of U.S. workers (45%) anticipate that the next three months will find at least some of their job and/or responsibilities being replaced by one or more of a series of factors.

Angrisani adds, “It is particularly interesting to note the age divide in job replacement fears. While younger generations are likely to be more technologically savvy, they are also more fearful of how technology may impact their future job prospects.”

The positive and negative showings cancel one another out, resulting in aggregated concerns (for May) holding firm in comparison to April (57%) and remaining slightly up from March (56%).

Joel Kranc is Director of Kranc Communications, focusing on business communications, content delivery and marketing strategies. He has written and worked in the retirement and institutional investment space for 17 years covering North American markets, large institutional pensions and the adviser community.




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