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Report Shows Cleaning and Hygiene Sector is in UK's Top Ten Industries

Report Shows Cleaning and Hygiene Sector is in UK's Top Ten industries
02 June 2021
 

The British Cleaning Council research report for 2021 shows that the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector is one of the UK’s top ten industries.

The latest employment data available, from 2020, shows that there are 1.47 million workers in the sector, approximately five per centre of the UK workforce and firmly in the top ten UK industries for employment.

Other more recent figures show the varying effect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have had on some parts of the industry, with demand soaring in some areas while others saw demand shrink. 

The report also testifies to the change in public attitudes which has put cleaning and hygiene at the top of the agenda and brought widespread recognition for the vital work of the sector’s previously invisible workforce.

 

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Stop Saying "Low-Skilled Jobs"

 

A recent article in The Atlantic echoes this view, calling for an end to the term "low-skill job", which is sometimes used to describe cleaning staff.

Annie Lowrey argues that the label “low-skill” flattens workers to a single attribute, ignoring the capacities they have and devaluing the jobs they do:

"The most gutting problem with these terms is that many “low-skill jobs” held by “low-skill workers” are anything but. Many of these are difficult, physically and emotionally taxing jobs that, in fact, require employees to develop extraordinary skills....A great deal of skill is necessary to wash a lunch rush’s worth of dishes. A great deal of skill is required to change the clothes of an immobilized senior who might not want to have her clothes changed, or to wrangle a class of toddlers, or to clean up an overgrown yard at breakneck pace, or to handle five tables of drunk guys who want their wings yesterday."

 

The Central Role of Cleaners

 

Figures from February 2020 to February 2021 show the different impact the pandemic has had in differing parts of the industry

  1. The monthly GDP of services to buildings and landscape activities was 13 per cent below the February 2020 level
  2. Waste collection treatment and disposal activities grew at 3.4 per cent over the same time period
  3. Manufacture of soap and detergent, cleaning and polishing perfumes and toilet preparations grew by 1.2 per cent during that period.

 

The report highlights the growing importance the public puts on cleaning in public spaces.  For example, research in the UK found that:  

  • 61 per cent of people who responded said that seeing cleaning and hygiene operatives in public spaces makes them feel that safety measures are being taken seriously
  • 45 per cent agreed that the visibility of cleaning in progress would encourage them to return to an office space, shopping centre or airport.

 

Chair of the The British Cleaning Council (BCC), Paul Thrupp, said: “Once again, our annual research report provides some fascinating insights into the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector.

“It testifies to the huge size and importance of the sector, which is one of the ten biggest in the UK and is a huge contributor to the UK economy.

“There are early indications of the impact of the pandemic on the sector, with different parts of the industry being affected in different ways.

“During the pandemic, many cleaning and hygiene operatives have continued to do vital work, protecting the health and wellbeing of others, while often putting themselves at risk. The public recognises and values this contribution.

“Increased awareness of the importance of cleaning and hygiene means our industry will continue to play a vital role as the UK recovers from the pandemic and into the future. I believe the outlook going forward is very positive.“

Picture: a photograph of a gloved hand cleaning a bathroom surface

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 02 June 2021

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