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Survey respondents reflect on the state and future of the bio/pharma employment.
Last year was meant to be a transitory year for the bio/pharma industry. With vaccinations deploying in December 2020, there was hope among many of last year’s respondents to the Pharmaceutical Technology/BioPharm International annual employment survey that the overall state of the industry would bounce back in 2021. More than 75% of survey respondents expected the industry to improve, while 64.3% expected business at their employer to improve (1).
However, while most of the world has moved past the quarantine mandates that were commonplace at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, progress has been hampered by various unfortunate developments. These include highly transmissible variants, inequitable vaccine distribution, and a reluctance to receive a vaccine among large portions of the global population.
This year’s employment survey focused on the state of this transition. More than 300 respondents answered questions about the current state of their workplace, pandemic-related changes, and where they believe the industry will be headed in the future Refer to the Figures 1 through 9 for a visualization of this data.
Last year’s survey observed a dramatic decrease in many core metrics. In 2019, 55.4% of respondents received increased pay; this dropped to 41.7% in 2020. These lost numbers seemed to funnel into the “no changes” bucket, which rose from 33.2% to 44.8%. However, there was an increase in pay cuts, which rose from 11.4% to 13.7%.
The 2021 numbers have recovered to a state comparable to 2019. Approximately 53% of respondents reported a pay increase and 39.0% reported no salary changes, a difference of -2.3% and 5.8%, respectively. Interestingly, pay cuts hit a three-year low, with just 8.0% of respondents reporting a decrease in compensation
A similar trend can be observed in job security metrics. From 2019 to 2020, individuals who felt increased job security (relative to last year’s survey) decreased from 30.0% to 17.8%. Those who felt less secure slightly increased from 30.6% to 34.4%, while those feeling no change jumped from 39.4% to 47.8%.
In 2021, there were improved metrics across the board relative to both 2019 and 2020. Increased job security hit a three-year high of 30.4%, a slight increase on 2019, while those who felt decreased job security hit a deep new low of 17.00%. Those reporting no changes saw the biggest bump, with over half of respondents (52.6%) reporting that they felt no changes in job security.
While these trends are encouraging, it should be noted that one limitation of the survey is that these values are measured relatively, which necessitates additional context in their evaluation. For instance, if 2020 can be viewed as a down year, then returning to pre-pandemic levels of compensation/job security would inherently necessitate higher levels to compensate. If exact quantitative measures (for instance, a job security confidence scale) were implemented, we may receive further industry insights.
Following the onset of the pandemic, bio/pharma companies began implementing new workplace measures and procedures in order to prioritize the safety of their workforce and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In our 2020 survey, we asked respondents if their company had implemented any of the following procedures:
This year, we asked respondents these same questions to measure what, if anything, had changed in widespread implementation of these practices.
Only four measures —C, A, F, and H—saw a decrease: 10.4%, 9.1 %, 4.7%, and 3.4%, respectively. Of these, measure H indicates no significant changes, which suggests more workers felt their company had implemented critical, pandemic-related changes to their workplace.
The overall headline of this data-set is implementation of work-from-home in bio/pharma workplaces. At the time of last year’s survey, a little over half (53.9%) of respondents stated that their company had implemented this measure. However, in this year’s survey, this number jumped to 70.5% of respondents.
While prior questions helped give a contemporary view of the pandemic’s impact, we also wanted to determine to what extent pandemic-related measures would remain in the long-term. This would allow us to not only get a sense of individual workplaces, but also provide commentary on the industry as a whole. In that vein, we asked respondents predictive questions about two of these processes: remote inspections and abbreviated approval pathways.
Remote inspections have emerged as an alternative to traditional on-site inspections, as they allow sites to maintain quality control compliance while also encouraging social distancing and accommodating workflow changes. When questioned to what degree these would occur once the COVID-19 pandemic “significantly subsided”, most respondents (62.4%) felt that they would continue at a higher-rate than before the pandemic. Conversely, just 26.6% felt that it would return to the previous model, while only 11% felt the current increase would continue.
The results were similar as it concerned abbreviated approval pathways. A majority of respondents (81.1%) felt that either “most” or “some” of these measures would continue to exist once the pandemic significantly subsides, while just 18.8% felt that they would completely/almost completely continue to exist or disappear.
To this point, the survey has supported the notion that the COVID-19 pandemic has, is, and will continue to impact the bio/pharma industry for the foreseeable future. However, various metrics that indicate a degree of economic recovery, such as job security and salary changes, can also be observed. It is perhaps because of this that we are seeing an increased degree of optimism among respondents.
As Figures 6 and 7 indicate, most respondents felt that their company (47.4%) and the bio/pharma industry (53.2%) exceeded their personal expectations in 2021. Additionally, the majority (58.4% and 60.5%, respectively) also felt that this upward trajectory of both would continue into 2022.
The precise future direction of the bio/pharma industry will be in question for as long the pandemic continues. However, as this year’s survey shows, the prevailing attitude is that this impact will not prevent future growth and development. Changes brought on by the pandemic would not have occurred without it, but that by no means equates to entirely
R. Peters, “Compensation Does Not Necessarily Align With Job Satisfaction,” Pharmaceutical Technology 45 (1) 2021.
Grant Playter is the Assistant Editor at Pharmaceutical Technology.
Vol. 46, No. 1
When referring to this article, please cite it as G. Playter, “The Long Path to Normal,” Pharmaceutical Technology 46 (1) (1) 19–21 (2022).