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More men in lower paid roles are working fewer hours or part time while higher paid men are working more, meaning there are fewer male middle earners, according to a new report from the Resolution Foundation.
Counting the hours says the share of low-paid men earning less than £175 a week (a third of the typical male weekly wage) has increased by 70 per cent over the last 20 years while the share of higher-paid men earning more than £1,060 (double the typical weekly wage) has increased by 15 per cent. In contrast, the share of middle-earning men – earning between £400 and £660 – has fallen by 15 per cent.
The report says that the explanation for the growing divide in weekly pay packets lies in the big shifts in men’s working patterns over the last 20 years, such as the rising number of male part-time employees, which has increased by over 50 per cent since 1997. Almost one in eight men work part time today, compared to fewer than one in 12 20 years ago.
The report also finds a growing divide in the number of hours that men working full time do. The average number of hours worked by low-paid men has fallen from 44.3 hours in 1997 to 42.2 hours in 2016 while increasing by 0.5 hours to 37.3 hours for high-paid men.
That means that low-paid men now work fewer hours on average than higher-paid men (34.1 hours, compared to 36 hours) – a reversal of working patterns from 20 years ago, says the report.
The same has not happened for women, it adds, who have seen a small rise in the share of higher paid women while both part-time and full-time women have increased their hours over the last 20 years.
The Foundation says that these changes are in part because of a more equal distribution of low-paid, part-time work between men and women. It adds that over a quarter of low-paid men working part-time want a full-time job. Involuntary part-time rates are highest for skilled tradespeople, cleaners, labourers and those in sales and customer service jobs.
Furthermore, while levels of underemployment are stable for higher paid workers, they are well-above the levels of the early 2000s for low-paid men.
Policy makers must be alert to people drifting towards low-paid short-hours work against their will, says the Foundation.
Stephen Clarke, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Stronger pay rises and finding work will always be the best and most direct way for households to boost their incomes. But being able to work the hours you want or need to get by also matter hugely.
“Women still dominate part time and low-paid work – but men are increasingly joining them. For the sake of both sexes we should be concerned about the numbers who find themselves there when they desperately need a full-time job.”