According to research published this week by Herbet Smith Freehills, 81% of employers have observed a reduction in employee activism over the last 18 months. The reduction is being attributed to economic uncertainties making employees more job security conscious.
Despite this, the trend is far from gone — as suggested by a series of recent high-profile strikes. The data reveals that most employers predict a rise in activism, with 59% expecting an increase in employee activism in the future. This is a notable decrease from the 72% who held this expectation in 2021.
Interestingly, the report identifies financial pressures as both a current suppressor and a future catalyst of workplace activism. Approximately 47% of respondents believe the rising cost of living crisis will trigger future activism, while 40% anticipate movements around pay and benefit inequalities. Additionally, 38% foresee increased monitoring and surveillance of workers as a potential source of unrest.
The report found that economic concerns are at the top of the list for employees, but issues such as discrimination and corporate social responsibility (CSR) remain important — though slightly less urgent than in previous years. The data also touches on the increasing skepticism towards activism, with 46% of employers now viewing it as a risk to be managed.
In response to these trends, employers are increasingly channeling activism through internal channels, with 81% having established official forums for employee activism consultation. This approach strives to balance the need for open dialogue with the responsibility to maintain a respectful and inclusive workplace environment.