The Employment Outlook Brightens

December 1, 2011
Amy Ritter, PhD

Scientific Editor, BioPharm International

BioPharm International, BioPharm International-12-01-2011, Volume 24, Issue 12
Page Number: 40–45

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 our 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 81% 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, many indicators remain relatively unchanged, with 16.2% leaving jobs involuntarily following restructuring but with 58.6% experiencing a salary increase. The median salary of workers in biopharmaceuticals, at $104,600, compares favorably to the rest of the industry, at $103,100.

Getty Images

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 speedy recovery has been somewhat delayed.


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, 84% of respondents "agree strongly" or "agree somewhat" that they are secure in their current job (see Figure 1). This is slightly improved over from last year's results, where 70.8% of respondents felt "secure," "very secure," or "extremely secure." It is interesting then that, when asked to compare job security this year with last year, 37.8% claim they feel less secure today than in 2010 (men somewhat less secure at 41.2% than women at 31.9%). Nevertheless, 32.1% of respondents would consider moving to another position based solely on improved job security, with another 53.2% 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. (ALL FIGURES ARE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS)

Breaking the data down by the size of the organization, those working in large companies (i.e., companies with more than 10,000 employeees worldwide) are sitting tight: 45.2% say they feel no more or less secure than last year, and 18.3% feel more secure. At small companies with less than 500 employees, anxiety runs higher, with 47.5% saying they feel less secure than last year, but a higher percentage, 30%, saying they feel more secure. The pattern is somewhat reversed when respondents discuss whether they were likely to leave their job involuntarily in the coming year; 10% of respondents working for small companies agreed, as compared with 22% in large companies.

Only 18.8% of all respondents agreed that leaving their job involuntarily was likely, but what about moving on to new pastures voluntarily? A strong 64% of respondents disagree strongly or disagree somewhat that they will leave voluntarily (34.7% were in agreement), so many are either satisfied at work, or mindful that the job market has seen better days. Once again, the size of the company plays an important role in this decision. While 25.6% of respondents from large companies agreed strongly or agreed somewhat that they would leave voluntarily in the coming year, more than half (52.5%) of respondents from small companies thought that they might voluntarily change jobs in the coming year.


According to this year's responses, salary is surprisingly not a pillar of job satisfaction but is important. Only 34.6% of respondents feel they are paid fairly for their level of expertise, despite 58.6% of respondents receiving salary increases in 2011. Rather, the majority (44.3%) feel that they are paid at the low end of the scale but within market value or simply not paid the going rate (20.3%) (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 52.8% of respondents seeing an increase in 2011 and a relatively high 15.1% witnessing decreases in salary in 2011. Compared with North America's 59.6% increase and 8.8% decrease this past year, and in the rest of the world 64.7% indicating a salary increase, perhaps European companies are saving their increases for a rainy day.

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

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 (see Figure 1). This feeling is particularly strong in traditional bio/pharmaceutical companies (81.1%) compared with generic-drug firms (66.7%) and contract organizations (70.5%). Reversing the trend from last year, women feel slightly more valued than men (at 78.6 and 75.7%, respectively).

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

So, aside from feeling valued, what other factors help bio/pharmaceutical employees face the early alarm clock every morning? Overwhelmingly, "intellectual stimulation" is the number-one driver, with 63.8% of respondents considering it an important contributor and 28.6% 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 64% citing it as an important factor, and 27% indicating that 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).

About the survey respondents

One notable difference this year compared with 2010 is that similar 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. Nearly 34% of all respondents say they would change jobs for an improved work–life balance alone; similarly, professional advancement (35.7%), salary (30.9%), job security (32.4%), and intellectual challenge (29.5%) are all strong deciding factors (see Figure 4). Changing tact slightly, when asked what sole factors would make one quit a job, 36.1% of respondents cite low pay. Discrimination also ranks high as a reason to leave a job (35.5%). However, the latter response may be hypothetical considering that 77.1% of respondents say they have not experienced discrimination in their current job. Surprisingly, 38.7% 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 57.7% of respondents who have been through a merger, acquisition, downsizing or restructuring, 44.9% saw no significant effect and 31.6% saw only a change in job responsibilities. Therefore, 23.8% left jobs voluntarily or otherwise (see Figure 6).

Figure 6: Respondents were asked what the effects of mergers, acquisitions, or restructuting have been in the work place.


In conclusion, industry wants 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 51.3% 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 70.1% predicting that business will improve. However, 24.1% believe growth will only occur overseas in 2012. Approximately 11.6% expect no significant change, leaving only 14.7% of respondents laying awake at night worrying about decline.

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