Calendar year 2022

Employer Skills Survey

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  1. Streamlined training type variables to match the prompted list in the questionnaire.

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This Official Statistics release covers the key statistics from the Employer Skills Survey 2022 (ESS 2022), a large-scale telephone survey of 72,918 employers across the UK, providing labour market information on the skills challenges faced by employers. This comprised 59,486 interviews with employers in England, 3,400 interviews in Northern Ireland, 5,207 in Scotland and 4,825 in Wales. This report focuses on findings about: 

  • Recruitment and skill-shortage vacancies
  • Skills gaps
  • Training and workforce development 

ESS 2022 was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), with funding from DfE, the Welsh Government, the Department for Economy in Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Government. It was managed by IFF Research, and Ipsos and BMG Research were subcontracted to support the fieldwork process.

The publication of ESS 2022 follows a longstanding UK-wide ESS series which was conducted biennially from 2011 to 2017. It ran in alternate years with its sister survey, the Employer Perspectives Survey (EPS). ESS traditionally had a more inward-looking focus assessing the current skills position and skills needs of employers, while the Employer Perspectives Survey was primarily outward looking, covering engagement with the wider skills system. Since 2019, the EPS has been incorporated into ESS as one survey. ESS 2019 only covered England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Scotland was covered separately in its own national ESS in 2020 and national EPS in 2019 and 2021. For this reason, when making UK-wide comparisons the last comparable data point is 2017. Where nation results are shown over time it is possible to compare to 2019 results for England, Northern Ireland and Wales. For Scotland, the last data point used for comparison in this report is 2017, as it provides a more appropriate time series comparison than the Scottish ESS 2020 and EPS 2021 due to the impact COVID-19 had on the wider economy during 2020/2021.  

For presentational reasons, it is not possible to cover a full time series (going back to ESS 2011) for every measure in this report, however this data is available for users if they wish to create their own tables. Core indicators data is also available by Mayoral Combined Authority and two digit Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), and vacancy measures are available by Standard Occupational Classification (SOC).

Fieldwork for ESS 2022 was conducted between June 2022 and March 2023. This differs from previous years of the survey where fieldwork took place within one calendar year (for example the 2019 survey ran from May to December 2019). Further information about the ESS methodology can be found in the accompanying Technical Report. Further findings from ESS will be available in the full research report that will be published at a later date.

The sample of employers was drawn at random from Market Location, a commercial sample provider and supplemented with sample from the Inter-Departmental Business Register for subsectors where Market Location coverage was low. Results from the survey are representative of employers across the UK. ESS 2022 was the first in the series to use a Random Probability Sampling (RPS) approach, where all sample issued is processed according to agreed protocols until all leads are exhausted, meaning that units sampled from a given population cell have an equal and known probability of being sampled.

The terms “establishment” and “employer” are used interchangeably throughout to avoid repetition. At the UK level for all establishments, the sampling error is ±0.36%, meaning that for a survey result of 50% based on all establishments, we can be 95% confident that the true figure lies within the range of 49.64% to 50.36%. The population covered by the survey was establishments (rather than organisations) with at least two staff on their payroll.

All differences referred to in the report commentary are statistically significant at the 95% level of confidence. This applies to differences between survey subgroups, such as region, size and sector, and also to differences over time.

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Headline facts and figures - 2022

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ESS provides a detailed understanding of the level and nature of employer demand for new staff and the ability of the labour market to meet this demand, particularly in relation to applicants having the skills and qualifications employers require. 

This section covers all vacancies, hard to fill vacancies and skill-shortage vacancies.

The key measures reported in this section are as follows:

Figure 3-1 Key definitions for ESS vacancy measures; incidence, density and volume of vacancies
VacanciesHard-to-fill vacanciesSkill-shortage vacancies
IncidenceThe proportion of establishments reporting at least one vacancyThe proportion of establishments reporting at least one hard-to-fill vacancyThe proportion of establishments reporting at least one skill-shortage vacancy
DensityVacancies as a proportion of all employmentHard-to-fill vacancies as a proportion of all vacanciesSkill-shortage vacancies as a proportion of all vacancies

Incidence and density of vacancies

23% of employers had at least one vacancy at the time of the survey, an increase from 20% in 2017. As shown in Figure 3-2, vacancy density has also increased, from 3.5% in 2017, to 5.0% in 2022. Since 2011, both incidence and density of vacancies have increased at each time point in which employers were surveyed. This has seen vacancy density increase from 2.2% in 2011 to 5.0% in 2022.

Overall, employers reported 1,495,000 vacancies in 2022. This is an increase of nearly 500,000 vacancies since 2017 (1,007,500). As shown in Table 3.1, the volume of vacancies has grown year on year.

There was little variation by nation in the proportion of employers with at least one vacancy at the time of the survey in 2022. The incidence of vacancies increased across all nations from the last time point surveyed, most notably in Northern Ireland (from 14% in 2019 to 21% in 2022) and Wales (from 15% to 22%). Vacancy density (i.e. vacancies as a proportion of employment) also increased among each nation since the last available data point. The largest increase was in Northern Ireland, increasing from 3.1% in 2019 to 5.0% in 2022.

Vacancy density was highest among private sector organisations at 5.2%; this compares with 4.8% in the charity and voluntary sector and 3.9% in the public sector. The largest increase in vacancy density was however seen in the charity and voluntary sector (up 1.8 percentage points since 2017).

The sector with the highest density of vacancies in 2022 was Hotels and Restaurants (7.7%), which saw an increase of 2.0 percentage points compared to 2017 (5.7%). Health and Social Work had the second highest density (6.6%), this represented an increase of 2.8 percentage points since 2017 (3.8%), the largest increase of all of the sectors. There were also notable increases in vacancy density in the Primary Sector and Utilities (from 2.3% in 2017 to 4.3% in 2022), Construction (3.2% to 5.2%), and the Transport and Storage sector (2.9% to 4.9%). In the Information and Communications sector, there was minimal change compared to other sectors (4.4% in 2017 and 4.7% in 2022). 

As has been the case throughout the ESS series, the proportion of establishments reporting vacancies increased with size, ranging from 12% of establishments with 2 to 4 employees to 86% of establishments with 250 or more employees. However, vacancy density decreased with size, ranging from 6.3% among establishments with 2 to 4 employees to 4.1% among establishments with 250 or more employees.

Hard-to-fill vacancies

Volume and incidence of hard-to-fill vacancies

Hard-to-fill vacancies are a subset of current vacancies, where employers reported difficulties filling the roles. Examples of these difficulties include a low number of applicants with the required skills, a lack of interest in the job, competition from other employers and poor terms and conditions offered for the post.

 There was a total of 850,000 hard-to-fill vacancies in 2022, an increase from 336,800 hard-to-fill vacancies in 2017. In 2022 around one in seven (15%) employers had at least one vacancy proving hard-to-fill at the time of the survey. 

Likelihood of having a hard-to-fill vacancy increased with size, ranging from just 7% of establishments with 2 to 4 employees to 54% of establishments with 250 or more employees.

Hard-to-fill vacancies were most prevalent among employers in the Health and Social Work (26% had at least one), Education (26%) and Hotels and Restaurants sectors (21%). The Financial Services sector and Primary Sector and Utilities were least likely to have hard-to-fill vacancies (10% and 8% respectively).

Skill-shortage vacancies

Incidence, density and volume of skill-shortage vacancies (SSVs)

Skill-shortage vacancies are a subset of hard-to-fill vacancies that employers struggle to fill due to a lack of skills, qualifications or experience among applicants. Overall, there were 531,200 skill-shortage vacancies (SSVs) in 2022, more than twice the corresponding number in 2017 (226,500), as shown in Table 3.4.

One in ten (10%) employers had a SSV at the time of interview. This is an increase from 2017 levels (6%) and has steadily increased from a figure of 3% in 2011. As shown in Figure 3-4, the proportion of vacancies that are skill-shortage vacancies (i.e. the SSV density) increased to 36% after remaining relatively stable between 2013 and 2017 (22-23%). 

There were no differences by nation in terms of the proportion of employers that had SSVs (incidence). However, SSVs as a proportion of all vacancies (density) was lower in Scotland than other nations (31%, compared with 35-36% elsewhere).

The density of SSVs increased in all but one sector (Primary Sector & Utilities) between 2017 and 2022. Reflecting the relative size of the sectors, skill-shortage vacancies were most numerous in the Health and Social Work (110,200), Business Services (102,400) and Wholesale and Retail (56,000) sectors. However, when taking the relative measure of SSV density, SSVs accounted for a higher proportion of all vacancies in the Construction, Information and Communications and Manufacturing sectors (52%, 43% and 42%). 

Some sectors saw a large change in SSV density between 2017 and 2022. For example, Health and Social Work (22% to 40%) and Education (22% to 38%). In the Primary Sector and Utilities, SSV density fell between 2017 and 2022, from 33% to 28%. 

By size, the highest SSV density was found among establishments with 2 to 4 employees (42%). This was also the case in 2017. However, the largest increase in SSV density was found among employers with 250 or more employees, from 16% in 2017 to 35% in 2022. 

Employers were most likely to have experienced skills-related difficulties when recruiting for Skilled Trades positions (51% of all vacancies in this occupation were SSVs). While SSV density has increased among all occupation types since 2017, the largest increases were found in Administrative and Secretarial occupations (15% to 37%), Sales and Customer Service occupations (15% to 31%) and Elementary occupations (14% to 26%).

Skills gaps


The Employer Skills Survey (ESS) measures the incidence, volume, density of skills gaps, overall and at a national, sectoral and occupational level.

  • Skills gap incidence is the proportion of establishments judging at least one employee not fully proficient.
  • Skills gap density is the number of employees that were judged not fully proficient as a proportion of all employees.
  • Skills gap volume is the number of employees that were judged not fully proficient. 

Incidence, density and volume of skills gaps

In total 1.72 million employees in the UK workforce were judged by employers to have a skills gap (i.e. considered by the employer to be lacking full proficiency), an increase compared to 1.27 million in 2017. 

Overall, 15% of employers reported skills gaps in 2022, an increase from 13% in 2017. The proportion of all employees considered not to be fully proficient by their employer (i.e. skills gap density) has also increased from 4.4% in 2017 to 5.7% in 2022. This marks the first time since the UK-wide ESS began that results for both measures increased, after a steady decline in both the incidence and density of skills gaps since 2011. The skills gap density in 2022 is the highest recorded in the ESS series, exceeding the previous high of 5.5% in 2011.

By nation, there were around 1,516,500 skills gaps in England, 36,700 in Northern Ireland, 51,500 in Wales and 118,900 in Scotland in 2022. The volume of skills gaps has increased across all nations except Scotland (122,100 in 2017).  In 2019, 1,168,000 skills gaps were reported in England, 26,300 in Northern Ireland and 50,900 in Wales.

Employers in England and Scotland had the highest skills gaps incidence (each 15%), followed by Wales (14%). Northern Ireland employers were least likely to report having skills gaps (11%). The figure for England represents an increase in the proportion of employers reporting skills gaps (from 13% in both 2017 and 2019), whereas in Scotland the proportion was a similar level to 2017 (16%).

Public sector establishments were more likely to have skills gaps (21%) compared to private sector bodies and charity or voluntary sector establishments (both 15%). By sector, establishments in the Public Administration (24%), Education (20%) and Hotel and Restaurants (20%) sectors were most likely to have skills gaps, while those in Primary Sector and Utilities (9%) and Construction (12%) were least likely.

Skills gap density rose from 4.6% to 5.9% in England and from 3.3% to 4.6% in Northern Ireland. Skills gap density remained stable in Wales (4.1% vs. 4.0% in 2019). Scotland’s skills gap density was marginally lower than in 2017 (4.8% in 2022 vs. 5.0% in 2017).

 Despite being the most likely sectors to have any skills gaps, Public Administration and Education had relatively low skills gap densities (4.2% and 3.4% respectively). The Transport and Storage and Health and Social Work sectors also had low skills gap densities (both 3.7%) in the case of the Health and Social Work sector, this was despite a relatively high proportion of employers with skills gaps (17%).

The highest density of skills gaps in 2022 was reported in the Hotels and Restaurants sector (8.6%); this was also true in 2017. Employers in the Financial Services (7.7%) and Manufacturing (7.5%) sectors also reported a relatively high density of skills gaps. As shown in Figure 4-3, the largest increases in skills gap density by sector were observed in the Financial Services (from 5.0% in 2017 to 7.7% in 2022) and Business Services (4.3% to 6.9%) sectors.

The incidence of skills gaps increased with establishment size, ranging from 6% among the smallest establishments with 2 to 4 employees to 48% among those with 250 or more employees. Skills gap density followed a similar trend, increasing from 2.7% among employers with 2 to 4 employees, to 5.1% for employers with 5 to 24 employees, and increasing steadily up to 6.9% among the largest employers (250 or more employees). 

Training and workforce development

Incidence of training and workforce development

Three-fifths (60%) of UK employers in 2022 had funded or arranged training over the previous 12 months for their employees. This is a decrease compared to previous years since 2011, where around two-thirds (65-66%) of employers had provided training for staff. 

By nation, the decline in the proportion of employers offering training can be seen earlier in England and Northern Ireland. In England, the proportion of employers providing training fell to 61% in 2019 from 66% in 2017, and in Northern Ireland fell from 63% to 59% in the same period. However, both England and Northern Ireland saw little change in 2022, compared with 2019 levels (60% in 2022 vs. 61% in 2019 in England; and 58% vs. 59% in Northern Ireland). Wales saw a consistent proportion of employers’ train between 2017 and 2019 (62%), with the proportion decreasing in 2022 (60%).   

In Scotland, the 2022 survey found close to two-thirds (64%) of employers had provided training, the highest proportion among all nations. This represents a decrease since 2017 (71%). 

By sector, employers in the Education (87%), Public Administration (87%) and Health and Social Work sectors (83%) were most likely to provide training to staff in the last 12 months. Conversely, 47% of employers in the Primary Sector and Utilities provided training to their staff over the same period.

With the exception of employers in the Public Administration sector, there was a decrease in employers providing training in all sectors. The largest decreases were seen among the Manufacturing (decreasing from 62% in 2017 to 54% in 2022), and Arts and Other Services sectors (decreasing from 68% in 2017 to 60% in 2022).

Likelihood of training being provided to staff increased with establishment size, ranging from 45% among employers with 2 to 4 employees to 94% among those with 250 or more employees. For employers with 2 to 4 employees, this represents a decrease from 53% providing training in 2017, the largest decrease by size group.

The survey captures two main types of training employers may provide:   

  • Off-the-job training: training beyond that which takes place on-the-job or as part of an individual’s normal work duties. This can be undertaken at an employer’s premises, at a provider, at home or elsewhere.
  • On-the-job training: Training undertaken at the individual’s work position and covering activities that would be recognised as training by staff, rather than learning by experience which can take place all the time.

Employers may provide one or both of these types of training.

In 2022, around half (49%) of UK employers provided on-the-job training to their staff over the past 12 months; down from 53% in 2017. The proportion of employers providing off-the-job training decreased from 48% in 2017 to 39% in 2022. This represents a greater decline compared to the reduction in on-the-job training.

Around one in five (21%) UK employers offered on-the-job training only, an increase from 18% in 2017.

Proportion of staff trained

Employers in the UK had trained a total of 18.2 million staff over the previous 12 months, an increase from 17.9 million in 2017 (Table 5.1). However, the proportion of the workforce trained reduced from 62% in 2017, to 60% in 2022, as shown in Figure 5‑3.

As shown in Figure 5‑4, a larger proportion of staff in Northern Ireland and Wales received training (64% and 63% respectively), compared to employers in England or Scotland (60% and 59% respectively). 

The highest proportion of staff receiving training was seen in the Education sector (77%), followed by Financial Services, Public Administration, and Health and Social Work (75%). The lowest proportion was seen within Primary Sector and Utilities (46%, decreasing from 52% in 2017), and the Construction sector (49%).

The largest increase in the proportion of staff receiving training was in the Public Administration sector, from 59% in 2017 to 75% in 2022. The largest decrease was seen in the Wholesale and Retail sector (from 58% in 2017 to 52% in 2022), and Primary Sector and Utilities (from 52% in 2017 to 46% in 2022). 

As in previous years, larger employers trained a greater proportion of their staff. Among establishments with 2 to 4 employees, 36% of staff had received training, compared with 66% among establishments with 250 or more staff. Employers with 2 to 4 staff trained proportionally less staff than in 2017 (36% in 2022 vs. 42% in 2017).

Types of training provided

The most common type of training provided by employers that had trained was job specific training (84%); this was consistent with 2017. Health and safety training was the next most common form of training provided (71%), though this had decreased since 2017 (74%), as shown in Figure 5‑5. As in previous waves, larger employers were more likely to provide all forms of training compared to smaller employers.

All other forms of training provided had decreased from 2017, with the exception of more extensive induction training for staff (37% in 2022 vs. 36% in 2017).

Online or e-learning training

Around two-thirds (67%) of employers that provided training had funded or arranged online training or e-learning for their staff in the previous 12 months, up from 51% in 2017. As shown in Figure 5‑6,  the largest increase was in Northern Ireland (42% in 2019 to 60% in 2022), but Northern Ireland remained less likely to provide this type of training compared to all other nations.

Primary Sector and Utilities employers were least likely to provide online training or e-learning (43%), however the proportion of employers providing this training substantially increased since 2017 (23%). Other large increases were observed in the Transport and Storage (59% in 2022 vs. 35% in 2017), and Arts and Other Services sectors (63% in 2022 vs. 42% in 2017). 

Similar to previous years, the likelihood of providing online training or e-learning increased with establishment size, from 57% of establishments with 2 to 4 employees, to 94% of establishments with 250 or more employees.

Training days

Employers had provided 108 million training days over the last 12 months, equivalent to 6.0 days per year per person trained (‘per trainee’), and 3.6 days per employee, as shown below. The total number of training days provided had decreased from 2017 (114 million training days), continuing a downward trend from 2015 (118 million training days).

The number of training days per trainee was lower in 2022 than 2017 (6.0 days vs. 6.4 days), continuing a downward trend from 6.8 days in 2015. Training days per employee were also lower in 2022 (3.6 days) than 2017 (4.0) and 2015 (4.2).

By nation, 5.9 training days per trainee per annum were provided in England in 2022, similar to 2019 (6.0), but a marked decrease from 2017 (6.4 days). Northern Ireland (5.8 in 2022 vs. 5.4 in 2019) and Wales (6.8 vs. 5.1) had both seen increases in training days per trainee since 2019. Scotland had seen a moderate increase in training days since 2017 (6.7 in 2022 vs. 6.5 in 2017).

Investment in training


Total employer expenditure on training and development over the previous 12 months was £53.6 billion. The total spend on on-the-job training was marginally more than off-the-job training spend (£28.2 billion and £25.4 billion respectively). 

The 2022 training expenditure of £53.6 billion represents an 7.7% decrease in real terms on the 2017 figure of £58.1 billion. Note, that for figures from earlier years, inflation has been taken into account. By nation, training expenditure has increased since 2019 in England (from £44.9 billion to £45.8 billion), Northern Ireland (from £1.2 billion to £1.3 billion) and Wales (from £2.0 billion to £2.3 billion). Scotland training expenditure had decreased since 2017 (from £4.8 billion to £4.1 billion) though the other nations had also seen decreases compared to 2017, as shown in Table 6.1.

Employers’ total investment in training over the previous 12 months was equivalent to around £2,950 per person trained. Training spend per person trained was highest in England (£2,970) compared with Northern Ireland (£2,630), Scotland (£2,870) and Wales (£2,920).

Employers’ total investment in training over the previous 12 months was equivalent to around £1,780 per person employed. Training spend per person employed was highest in Wales (£1,830) compared with England (£1,790), Northern Ireland (£1,670) and Scotland (£1,680).

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