Poll Finds Workers Feeling Underpaid

July 18, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new survey released Monday reflected a sharp hike in the number of respondents who feel they are earning less than they deserve.

According to the survey by staffing agency Randstad USA – taken with Harris Interactive – almost four in 10 employees think their companies pay less-than-market-rate salaries. That stacks up against 28% who responded that way last year, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The survey found that a growing number of employers – 50% this year compared with 42% in 2005 – said they believed their salaries were competitive with market rates. The growing cutoff between workers and bosses occurred at the same time as fewer employees reported being satisfied with their workloads and hours.

That pressure contributes to feeling underpaid. “Employers pretty much think their salaries are competitive in the marketplace, and they may be,” said Eric Buntin, managing director of marketing and operations for Randstad USA, in the newspaper. “But pay may not be keeping up with the increasing costs we’ve been experiencing, especially in the last six months with dramatically higher gas prices. The productivity gains employers and employees agree are so important may not be translating into [higher] wages.”

Real wages for most private sector employees peaked in mid-2003, according to surveys by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Generation Y, defined by Randstad as those born between 1980 and 1987, is least interested in pay increases. Learning new skills is most important to the youngest generation of workers. Thirty-one percent ranked learning new skills as “extremely” or “very” important, compared with 27% who said pay increases were paramount.

Nineteen percent, more than any other generation, valued a career path, yet only 3% consider increased responsibilities very important.

Harris conducted the survey for Randstad in late February and early March by polling an online panel of about 1,600 employees and nearly 1,300 employers.