One million more workers ‘trapped in under-employment’ since onset of recession, says TUC

The number of “under-employed” workers in the UK has risen by 42% since 2008, with young people and low-skilled staff most likely to be working fewer hours than they would like.

This is according to a report by the TUC, which found that 3.3 million people are working part time because they cannot find full-time work or more hours in their existing jobs. This is an increase of just under one million workers during the last four years.

Young people aged 16 to 24 were more likely to be in this position, with nearly one-fifth (18.6%) of this age group under-employed.

The rate of under-employment is lower among older workers, with the lowest level reported for people aged 65 (5.5%), followed by 50- to 64-year-olds, of whom 9.3% wanted to work more hours.

However, the TUC’s analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics, found that, despite the high proportion of young workers forced to work fewer hours than they would like, 16- to 24-year-olds saw the smallest increase in under-employment during the last four years of any age group.

Between the first quarter of 2008 and the same period in 2012, there was a 25% increase in the number of under-employed 16- to 24-year-olds, compared to rises in other age groups ranging between 38%, for 35- to 49-year-olds, and 107% for those aged 65 and up.

Under-employment was also found to be common in low-skilled jobs, where one person in five (21.3%) couldn’t find enough work.

In addition, the TUC’s analysis found there were more under-employed women than men, with 1.73 million women in this situation, compared with 1.57 million men.

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.

“Young people, women and low-skilled workers are bearing the brunt of our under-employment crisis. It is alarming just how few young people are able to find a job working enough hours. This is a criminal waste of the talent and skills they have.”

Chris Grayling, the former minister for employment, who became justice secretary in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle, said that it was better to be in some form of employment than out of work.

“It is important that people are taking those first steps into employment through part-time work or jobs in different sectors as it provides vital experience and skills that employers will look for when the economy improves,” Grayling said.

“Over the past few months the rise in full-time work has outstripped that of part-time and unemployment has continued to fall.”

However, Barber added that, while any job may be better than no job at all, ministers will need to take the issue seriously as long periods of under-employment can do permanent damage to people’s careers.

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