In the Age of the Shrinking Middle Class and Stagnant Wages, What Are Today’s Best Opportunities?

The future isn’t what it used to be. Politicians and pundits fret anxiously about the stagnation of wages, while anti-establishment movements are surging in popularity around the world. Over the past 30 years, the number of middle-income households in the United Kingdom has declined by 27%. For employers and job seekers alike, these are troubling times.

When economists survey this landscape they see an increasingly polarised labour market in which a handful of high-skill, highly paid people reap the benefits at the top, while many more people are obliged to settle for poorly paid low-skill work at the bottom. Between these two extremes, the jobs in the middle that used to provide a ladder upwards to prosperity are growing ever scarcer — with the result that many people today feel that the range of opportunity available to themselves, their families and their communities is dwindling.

The economy is changing — but new jobs and careers will emerge to provide new career opportunities. In the latest report from the Indeed Hiring Lab we analyse the state of opportunity in 2016, identifying the first seeds of this coming change. By diving deep into Indeed’s data and other global data sets we map out the pathways that are leading away from the global wage crisis and disappearing middle, showing job seekers and employers alike the who, what and where of the occupations that provide the best opportunities today, while giving us a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Here are just some of the things we cover in the report:

1. What are the characteristics of an opportunity job?

Beginning with an assessment of the employment landscape in the United States, we identify the jobs that have shown strong wage growth and competitive salaries in the past 10 years, and then analyse them by education requirements, job seeker interest, risk of automation, as well as how resistant they are to economic downturns. We then track these jobs across major English-speaking labour markets, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, to produce detailed and valuable insight into the occupations that are best defying the downward pressure on wages today.

Strikingly, these jobs are highly concentrated in a small number of occupation categories. In fact, they accounted for only 16% of employment. Many of them are to be found in the fields of healthcare and tech, but there are opportunities elsewhere for people with very different skillsets. So how does the rest of the labour market compare? We explore what this means for employers and job seekers in the report.

2. What skills and educational background do you need for an opportunity job?

Education is increasingly critical to job seekers hoping to avoid the trap of wage stagnation. In fact, 75% of jobs identified as offering the best wage opportunities require at least some form of higher education.

However, a university degree no longer guarantees access to a career filled with opportunities. Today, what you study is more important than ever and many formerly well-paid white collar roles are no longer the pathways to success they once were. Employers are increasingly looking for problem solving and emotional intelligence skills, making these roles difficult to fill. And what about people without degrees? We cover all this and more in the report.

3. Where can you find opportunity jobs?

We also take a close look at where today’s wage stagnation-defying jobs are located. Through analysing the data on major English-language labour markets including Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK and US, we identify the countries and states with the highest concentration of opportunities—and also those with the lowest.

Meanwhile, opportunities are never equally dispersed within countries, suggesting that a willingness to move in pursuit of prosperity will become increasingly vital to career success — and this is a scenario which will also pose challenges to employers.

For more insights read the full report: The State of Opportunity: Overcoming the Wage Crisis in Today’s Labour Market

Indeed Hiring Lab - Full Report