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Unemployment in Architecture and Interior Design

Found in:

11/02/2021

Unemployment

Utilising the data gathered from the Architecture & Interior Design Employment and Industry Review 2021, we share the devastating impact of the unemployment rate in the Architecture & Interior Design industry. A staggering 30% of Architecture and Interior Design professionals are now unemployed.

For those who were in the unfortunate position of being unemployed, we wanted to find out more information about their situation. We asked, “Are you currently unemployed due to the pandemic?”. 81% said yes. Many provided more detail with their answer:

  • “I have been unemployed for six months now. The situation is very bleak with no suitable jobs or interviews coming my way. The available jobs are difficult to get as employers’ requirements are too specific. I have never experienced such a bad job market in my 25-year career.”

  • “I was made redundant due to the pandemic. My employer fired over 50% of their staff.”

  • “The furlough scheme extension was brought out too late as the practice wasn’t gaining enough projects and they had to resort to making employees redundant.”

There were a huge number of people who were made redundant along with their colleagues. Others had been victim to the delayed extension of the furlough scheme, that came out too late to save their employment. We also wanted to pick up on a comment from a female respondent:

  • “It’s a harsh and ruthless market that has no regard for exceptionally talented mothers who wish to return to the career ladder.”

More females are facing unemployment than males. If this commentary is anything to go by, we ask is the industry turning their backs on females who need to juggle both their work and family life? Are career breaks to focus on motherhood detrimental to seeking employment? We make no assumptions that this is representative of the entire industry, but even at some level, are any of us okay with this? Overall, the consequences of the virus have led to projects being put on hold and an increase in pressure to reduce the cost of bids. This has led to the deterioration of the financial stability of practices, both creating redundancies to produce the 28% unemployment level.

We continued by asking “What is your job seeking status?”. 72% were actively seeking new roles in Architecture and Interior Design, whilst only 10% were currently in the interview process for at least one job in the industry. This speaks volumes of the situation in the Architecture and Interior Design recruitment market. Those with the least experience (up to two years’) were the most likely to be in the interview process comprising of 21% of this group, while only 6% of those with three to five years’ experience were at interview stage.

If the recruitment market is bleak, what sacrifices will people make to secure a new role? We asked, “Would you take a pay cut for a new opportunity in Architecture and Interior Design?”. 63% agreed that they would. Those with under five years’ experience (up to two years’ 71% and three to five years’ 76%) were the most likely to agree to a pay cut. Those with six to nine years’ and 10 years’ plus experience were the least likely to agree.

At first, we were surprised that this figure was not higher but there are many considerations to take on board when contemplating agreeing to a pay cut for a new role.

Some people, particularly highly experienced professionals will be hesitant about taking a pay cut due to the concerns over devaluing the profession. The acceptance of a reduced salary at this point could lead to an industry-wide reduction in times to come. Some will fear this change and will remain firm in the value that their qualifications, experience and skills lend to the industry and may even disapprove of those that would be willing to take a pay cut. However, with so many unemployed, there is a risk that their desperation to secure a new role for financial stability will be too attractive and we could be at risk of seeing remuneration packages decline over the next two years.

We asked, “Is this the first time you have been unemployed during your career in Architecture and Interior Design?”. For 54% this had been their first time, with 46% already having experienced this in their career. The older survey participants were more likely to have been unemployed before. 62% of those who were aged 55 to 64 years old and 60% of 45 to 54 years olds had experienced it previously.

This can be put down to the number of years they have worked in the industry as well as the devastating impact the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 had on employment. Whilst in that crisis we saw that predominantly junior staff were let go, this time we are seeing a range from juniors to seniors, right up to Principal and Associate Director level.

Breaking this down further into regional differences, for those who normally work outside of London, 53% had been unemployed before, whereas for those who work in London only 41% had this experience.

London has traditionally been the central hub of Architecture and Interior Design. Jobs have been plentiful, and it has been easier to move from one job to another if things are not going well in the practice. Whilst other hubs in the country like Manchester have stayed buoyant, for those in other regions, the recruitment market can be narrow with few alternative options of employment to choose from.

Architecture and Interior Design professionals who had been unemployed before shared their experiences with us:

  • “Architecture for me has been a very unstable and insecure profession. I have been affected in some way or another by every economic downturn since I left university in 1995.”

  • “I have been mainly accepting contract roles over the last two years with very brief periods of unemployment between them up until the pandemic started.”

  • “I was unemployed in the early 90s recession of 1992-93.”

  • “I was unemployed during the 2008 financial crisis.”

We also heard from those who were experiencing unemployment for the first time:

  • “There are a lot of senior roles available. There do not seem to be many vacancies for people with less than five years’ experience. If they allow for fewer years’ experience, they still expect you to be very advanced in the job - which seems impossible to be with only a few years of experience.”

  • “I have applied to more than 50 job opportunities. So far no positive feedback.”

  • “I have never had a gap in between contract jobs before, this is the first time. The pandemic is making it harder to find a viable position.”

 

You can read the full Architecture & Interior Design Employment and Industry Review 2021 here.