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Part time job vacancies are increasing in London, but there are still fewer than in other parts of the country, particularly in middle level jobs and this has an impact on child poverty, according to a recent workshop on parental employment in the capital.
The workshop was organised by 4in10, a network of organisations working to end child poverty in London, based at Children England and funded by Trust for London and the City Bridge Trust. The parental employment workshop was the sixteenth in 4in10’s series of Good Practice Workshops. These aim to bring individuals, voluntary sector organisations and local authority bodies together to share information, good practice and get useful knowledge on the big London issues affecting families.
4in10 says it is interested in parental employment because the majority of the children living in poverty in London are in a family where at least one person is working.
The workshop heard that part-time working has historically been lower in London compared to the country as a whole, although recently there has been strong growth in part-time jobs. One speaker was economist Lara Togni from the GLA Economics team. She said any policy debate around ways to boost employment rates in London may need to focus on part-time employment first.
She said three in 10 jobs in London were part-time in 2014. This has risen consistently and has been stronger than the growth in full-time jobs. This is also true of the UK as a whole but more so in London. However, the numbers are rising from a lower base since the share of part-time jobs is still lower in London than the share in the rest of the UK. Togni said the differences in industrial and occupational mixes within London and the UK economies did not fully explain the London/UK gap.
Employment rates in London are historically lower for women than men which could be due to less available part-time work. As the employment rate is picking up, the gap between men and women’s employment is widening, she says. Another speaker said high housing costs might also be a factor.
Megan Jarvie, London Campaign Coordinator of the Child Poverty Action Group, said that for employment services to succeed they should recognise the specific barriers to parents. These include lack of flexible working. She said councils were tackling this, for instance, by using their procurement role to help parents by spreading good practice on flexible working, not just for existing staff but also at recruitment and negotiating with employers around flexible working.
She said parents should be able to make genuine choices about what was best for their family and the choices should be the same for all families whatever their income. They should have access to affordable and suitable childcare, family friendly jobs, employment support and in work benefits supporting part-time work for parents.
Andrew Bazeley, Senior Policy Officer at the London Borough of Newham talked about the council’s efforts to help parents into work through its Workplace service. He said experience from the service showed going out to work had to be worthwhile for parents. He outlined a range of lessons that had been learnt, for instance, that Children’s Centres needed to do outreach work with parents, the welfare-to-work system had to be employer led, training had to be linked to available jobs and the service needed to target jobs that work with childcare, such as teaching assistants. The borough cannot spend much on childcare, as this is not affordable, but they have in the past guaranteed a deposit scheme for childcare for local parents wanting to start work. This proved successful when the large deposit that is often required at the start of a childcare contract was a barrier for some parents.
Eashmota Khatoon, Employment & Advice Coordinator at Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, spoke about their work with parents. Hopscotch works with Camden Parents First project, to provide workshops on gender analysis, looking at barriers and building confidence. They tailor workshops to the particular needs of women and can tailor their courses to suit individual demand.
In the future they plan to set up pop-up shops to train women and give them work experience and confidence. They are working with charity shops and schools on voluntary opportunities.
The workshop heard that some parents were being encouraged to go into self employment as a way to work flexibly and potentially earn more money. However, this was often a high risk route and had put some into poverty. One questioner said people were being encouraged to take out loans to start up companies, putting them into a spiral of debt and they were not getting the promised support they needed.
Zero hours contracts was also discussed, including the problems around getting childcare to cover it and the impact on housing benefit. Speakers said it was important to encourage employers to advertise more part-time positions and not just zero hours contracts. Many part-time jobs now available were either too high skilled or lower skilled with no progression. Childcare was a massive issue, with reliance on extended families more problematic in London than elsewhere.