Underemployment ‘up by a million’

The economic troubles of the last few years have brought a significant rise in unemployment, although not by as much as some might have expected as it…

The economic troubles of the last few years have brought a significant rise in unemployment, although not by as much as some might have expected as it remains well short of the three million mark.

However, the jobless total does not tell anything like the whole story, according to a new Trades Union Congress (TUC) study.

It notes there is also the scourge of underemployment, in which people are still working, but not as much as they would want.

The TUC has calculated that the number of people in part-time work who would be doing full-time jobs were they able to get them has risen by 42 per cent to 3.3 million since 2008.

One obvious consequence of under-employment is a lower income, something that those struggling to pay off their debts may find hard to cope with.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "A million people have lost their jobs since the eve of the recession in 2008. But this tragic figure only tells half the story. A further million people are now trapped in jobs that don't have enough hours to provide the income they need to get by."

According to the study, underemployment varies between regions, as well as different age and work types.

While the overall UK rate of underemployment is 11.3 per cent of the workforce, it is as high as 13 per cent in Wales and 12.5 per cent in the East Midlands. 

Most age groups have lower rates of underemployment that 11.3, with just 9.3 per cent of the 50-64 age range and only 5.5 per cent for over-65s affected, whereas nearly a fifth (18.6 per cent) of 16 to 24-year-olds are affected.

There is also a major contrast between job types, with only 4.4 per cent of those in management and senior official jobs underemployed, compared with 21.3 per cent of those in elementary occupations and 19.3 per cent of people in sales and customer service positions.

A recent Clear Debt study showing seaside areas to be the worst for insolvencies may be evidence of the impact of underemployment.

Sales and service jobs make up a significant part of the economies of such towns, particularly those with a large tourist-based economy like Blackpool, Torbay and Scarborough.

These areas were shown to have some of the lowest average earnings in the country.

By James Francis

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