The Employment Outlook Brightens

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2011, Volume 35, Issue 12

Readers react to the economic turmoil of the past year and look longingly forward to 2012.

The economic and financial crisis that thundered through the world economy in 2008 still rumbles on today. The downgrade of the US debt rating in August 2011, along with the economic chaos that has taken over the European Union in recent months, have done little to lend confidence to the bio/pharmaceutical market. When analyzing data from Pharmaceutical Technology's 2011 annual employment survey, readers' outlooks are positive with regard to job security and business growth for 2012. Approximately 64% of respondents feel that their jobs will be secure in 2012, while 82% believe 2012 will bring improved business conditions or, at the very least, not decline.

In last year's survey, everyone was riding the employment roller coaster—11.3% of respondents lost their jobs but salary rises were given to those lucky or smart enough to remain in employment. This year, 7.2% left jobs involuntarily following restructuring, but many other indicators remain relatively unchanged, with 59.4% experiencing a salary increase. The median salary of all respondents rose from $102,500 in 2010 to a median of $103,100 for 2011.


At the end of 2010, the majority of survey respondents thought that business within the bio/pharmaceutical industry would improve in 2011, but given the enormity of global economic worries, it's no surprise that a recovery has been somewhat delayed.

More secure even in troubled times

Given the tone of mass media this past year, most respondents have probably had cause to consider just how secure they are in their current roles. But the results from the 2011 survey are positive. As noted, 64% of respondents "agree strongly" or "agree somewhat" that they are secure in their current job (see Figure 1). To put this into context, insecurity ran high at 53% in 2010—US respondents were above the average at 55.3%—so there is a marked improvement. It is interesting then that, when asked to compare job security to last year, 40.9% claim they feel less secure today than in 2010 (men somewhat less secure at 44.8% than women at 33.3%). Nevertheless, 33.6% of you would consider moving to another position based solely on improved job security, with another 52.9% considering it an important criterion, making it clear that security is still an issue of concern.

Figure 1: Respondents indicate to what extent they agree with statements about their current position and company.

Breaking the data down by organization type, contract manufacturers and service providers offer slightly more security (68.9% agreed their job was secure) than generic or traditional bio/pharmaceutical companies (64% and 63.8%, respectively) in a pattern that reflects last year's survey, although groupings are closer for 2011. The pattern is somewhat reversed when respondents discuss whether they were likely to leave their job involuntarily in the coming year; 28% of respondents working for generic-drug firms agreed, as compared with 21.5% in traditional pharma companies and 25% in contract organizations. Geographically, things get a little more interesting; Europe (East and West) trails in job security with 58.7% of respondents feeling safe, US and Canada match the total figure at 64.5%, but for the rest of the world (of which 54.5% is made up of India) job security sits at a very high 84% (see sidebar, "Emerging economies," for more details about India's bio/pharmaceutical employment sector).

Emerging economies


Only 21.6% of all respondents agreed that leaving their job involuntarily was likely, but what about moving on to new pastures voluntarily? A hefty 66.5% of respondents "disagree strongly" or "disagree somewhat" that they will leave voluntarily (33.5% were in agreement), so many are either satisfied at work, or mindful that the job market has seen better days. Once again, location plays an important role in this opinion. In North America, the figures follow the general trend (because of the survey weighting), with 30.5% of respondents agreeing that they are likely to leave their job voluntarily. In Europe however, the figure ramps up to 38%, and for the rest of the world, almost half "agree strongly" or "agree somewhat" with the statement. Given that these figures are at odds with job security, there must be significantly more powerful drivers for job satisfaction.

About the survey respondents

Rating satisfaction

According to this year's responses, salary is surprisingly not a pillar of job satisfaction but is important. Only 34.3% of respondents feel they are paid fairly for their level of expertise, despite 59.4% of respondents receiving salary increases in 2011. Rather, the majority (46%) feel that they are paid at the low end of the scale but within market value or simply not paid the going rate (19%)(see Figure 2). Location also seems to have little part to play with salary satisfaction, with similar responses given across the world.

Figure 2: Respondents indicate their level of salary satisfaction.

When it comes to salary increases, Europe seems to have the least generous employers, with only 50% of respondents seeing an increase in 2011 and a relatively high 12% witnessing decreases in salary. Compare these percentages with North America's 61.7% of respondents who had an increase and 7% of which had a decrease this past year, and the rest of the world which had 69% of respondents indicating a salary increase (and only 6.9% experiencing decreases).

Although respondents may not get paid what they believe they deserve, they do feel respected and needed by their employers. Three quarters of respondents agree (either strongly or somewhat) that their work is fully valued by their employer, up from 64.6% in 2010 (see Figure 1). This feeling is particularly strong in traditional bio/pharmaceutical companies (80.8%) compared with generic-drug firms (64.7%) and contract organizations (70.5%); it seems some headway has been made for contract organizations, which were struggling at the bottom of the pile last year with only 58.4% of respondents feeling valued. It could be that ever-stronger relationships between CMOs or CROs and partner companies have helped foster a sense of value among all employees working on projects together. Following the trend from last year, men feel slightly more valued than women (at 76.1 and 73.3%, respectively).

So, aside from feeling valued, what other factors help bio/pharmaceutical employees face the early alarm clock every morning? As in 2010, "intellectual stimulation" is the number-one driver, with 61.9% of respondents considering it an important contributor and 27.3% indicating that it is a main source of satisfaction. In fact, this is the top answer regardless of location. The "chance to work on challenging projects" is a close second, with 59.5% citing it as an important factor, and a 28.9% indicating that it is their main reason for going to work. Improved work–life balance, job security, better salary, and benefits fill out the rest of the top of the list in descending order of importance (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Resondents indicate the importance of different factors in job satisfaction (multiple responses were allowed).

One notable difference this year compared with 2010 is that similar job satisfaction results are produced irrespective of location, type of organization, and gender. This harmony is also the case when considering the factors that weigh in the decision to change jobs. Thirty-seven percent of all respondents say they would change jobs for an improved work–life balance alone; similarly, professional advancement (36.6%), salary (33.2%), job security (32.6%), and intellectual challenge (31.3%) are all strong deciding factors (see Figure 4). Changing tact slightly, when asked which sole factors would make respondents quit, 38% cite low pay. Discrimination also ranks highly as a reason to leave a job (34.4%). However, the latter response may be hypothetical considering that 78% of respondents say they have not experienced discrimination in their current job. Surprisingly, 41% of all respondents say that restructuring or the threat of a restructure has no impact on feelings about work. Perhaps this is because, of the 59.7% of you who have been through a merger, acquisition, downsizing or restructuring, 42% saw no significant effect and 39.8% saw only a change in job responsibilities. Therefore, just 18.2% left jobs voluntarily or otherwise.

Figure 4: Respondents indicate the factors that would entice them to leave their current position (multiple responses were allowed).

The future is bright

In conclusion, respondents want to be paid more in better jobs with more benefits, while enjoying a reduced workload and suffering from less stress—no real surprises there. Looking forward to 2012, a very positive 50.9% of respondents think that their company's business will improve in 2012 (only 17.9% expect a decline). As for the general outlook of the bio/pharmaceutical industry, once again, the results are positive with 72.6% predicting that business will improve. However, 24.2% believe growth will only occur overseas in 2012. Only 11.3% expect no significant change, leaving 16.1% of respondents lying awake at night worrying about decline.

Unequal opportunity

As bottles are uncorked and glasses raised on December 31, toasts should be made to a prosperous, healthy and bright 2012.