Will Candidates’ Job Satisfaction be Influenced by a Higher Salary?

It’s an age-old question, does money bring happiness? While we can all agree there are some things that we can not buy, no matter the size of our bank balance, it can certainly make aspects of our lives easier and more enjoyable. As the saying goes ‘money can’t bring happiness, but it’s better to cry in a Lamborghini’.


When placing candidates within roles, they may have voiced their want for leaving their current job due to unhappiness within the industry. Quite often, the first question on any job seekers’ lips is ‘what is the salary?’, mistakenly believing they will automatically be happier if they are earning more, disregarding other factors that make up the job specification.


As humans, it is hard to not constantly be thinking about being better off and believing in the notion that wealth equates to happiness. The CPD Standards Office, a body offering CPD accreditation, recently collated data from The ONS to discover what and if industries show any correlation between average weekly earning and employee happiness.

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Salary and Happiness

Respondents were asked to calculate on a scale of 0 to 10 how happy they were, with 0 being unhappy and 10 being completely unhappy. The top-scoring industries that showed a direct correlation between happiness and their average weekly earnings were:


  1. Retail, trade, and repairs – 92.01%
  2. Accommodation and food service activities – 88.91%
  3. Education – 88.59%
  4. Administrative and support service activities – 87.4%
  5. Manufacturing – engineering and allied industries – 86.3%


This correlation showed that in these particular industries, as wages rose, so did the happiness of employees.


The industries that showed the lowest correlation between earnings and happiness were:


  1. Mining and quarrying – 22.15%
  2. Professional, scientific and technical activities – 26.18%
  3. Manufacturing – chemicals and man-made fibres – 33.22%
  4. Real estate activities – 33.68%
  5. Financial and insurance activities – 34.30%


Specific data as to what causes this happiness was not collated but we can speculate due to these results. Job roles that are typically more stressful, such as mining and quarrying can be so demanding that the offer of a more substantial wage may not increase happiness. This is due to the intensity of these roles and a higher wage is given as compensation but will not necessarily relieve the stress this career brings. The long-term health implications of this would be a good example.


This does not imply that industries who revealed a high correlation are not stressful roles, rather that this stress can be lessened with a higher wage and therefore bring more happiness.


Skill, trade and administrative roles see the highest correlation with average weekly earnings and increased happiness.

Industries with Correlations Between Average Weekly Earnings and Anxiety

Similar to happiness, anxiety levels were scored on a scale of 0-10, 0 meaning the respondent possessed no anxiety and 10 being highly anxious.


The following industries reported the highest correlation between anxiety and average weekly earnings:


  1. Retail, trade and repairs – 74.52%
  2. Manufacturing – other – 72.07%
  3. Manufacturing – engineerings and allied industries – 70.67%
  4. Education – 68.51%
  5. Accommodation and food service activities – 68.04%


These correlations were not as high as those with happiness and average weekly earnings but there is still a strong correlation.


Retail, trade, and repairs show the strongest correlation between average weekly earnings and happiness but also anxiety. Most of the industries that reported higher happiness levels also reported higher anxiety levels.


Anxiety should not be confused with unhappiness and we can have both these feelings alongside each other. We can conclude from these reports that as wages increase, so does responsibility within a role which can lead to heightened anxiety levels.


An interesting point to be taken from this, health and social work, an industry infamous for high levels of stress and anxiety, reported a low correlation of just 53.40%, showing anxiety does not increase with wages.

Those That Reported as Living Comfortably or Completely Satisfied with Income Reported Higher Levels of Anxiety.

Income was scored similarly as happiness, this was subjective to how happy respondents were with their level of income. This was broken up into the following categories:


  • Completely satisfied
  • Mostly satisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 
  • Somewhat dissatisfied
  • Mostly dissatisfied
  • Completely dissatisfied 


How people were managing financially was scored within these categories:


  • Living comfortably
  • Doing alright
  • Just about getting by
  • Finding it quite difficult
  • Finding it very difficult


For those who classed themselves as ‘completely satisfied’ with their level of income showed a correlation with high levels of anxiety ay 65.68%


Those who were ‘living comfortably’ reported a staggering 89.97% correlation with high anxiety levels.


Remember, this does not mean they are unhappy but can be hypothesised that these respondents have high-earning job roles, which is leading to greater anxiety levels.

Correlation Between Bonuses and Happiness

Throughout many industries, bonuses are offered to staff in the hopes this boosts productivity and morale. However, this appears to not be giving the results many employers may be hoping for.


Employees were asked to score their happiness levels against bonuses and the correlation was weak. The highest correlated was 41%, this was reported from the construction industry.


Perhaps bonus amounts are not high enough to justify a change of attitude or maybe the means do not justify the outcome, as workers are placed under increasing pressure to meet targets to achieve these bonuses.


We can conclude money can equal happiness, but only within certain industries and only if you are willing to sacrifice mental health and take on more anxiety (responsibility in a job role) to do so. So, next time you have a candidate who seems a little too obsessed with the offered wage and not the role, perhaps you can suggest these findings and advise that they consider the industry they will be in and not their salary. 


To read more information about the full study, you can do so by visiting http://www.cpdstandards.com/news/more-money-more-happiness/ 

Drew Neisser