‘Low pay in secure jobs is a bigger issue than insecure jobs for UK government’

New CIPD report says the number of insecure jobs in the UK has not significantly increased in the last 20 years.

Folder with label saying 'salaries'


Employment insecurity affects many people but, overall, work in the UK is as secure as it was 20 years ago, with limited evidence of growing casualisation, according to new research from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development [CIPD].

The report Megatrends: Is work really becoming more insecure? finds that at 20%, the share of non-permanent employment in the UK – which includes the self-employed and temporary workers (including temporary zero hours contract workers) – has not increased since 1998.

The share of ‘involuntary’ temporary workers who would rather have a permanent job is highly cyclical and ebbs and flows with the economic climate, says the CIPD. It peaked at about 41% in 1994, before falling to just under 26% in 2007. It increased again during the economic downturn to 40% in 2013 before falling again to just under 27% by 2018.

The report is based on analysis of data from a range of sources including the Office for National Statistics. It also says that most people in atypical employment – whether they are self-employed, working in the digital gig economy or on a zero hours contract – choose to work in this way and are broadly satisfied.

In addition, the report says there is no long-term increase in the under-employment rate of workers who want more hours, which was just under 7% between 2002 and 2007. It then peaked at about 10% in 2011 and fell back to just over 7% in 2018.

The research also compares the UK with the EU on various measures of employment security and finds that the UK has a low share of non-permanent employment, but it also has a more unequal wage structure and a higher share of low-paid jobs than most EU states.

The report concludes that, while it’s important to improve the conditions and rights of people working atypically, policy makers need to focus more attention on improving the quality of employment for people in ‘regular’ jobs who account for a significant majority of total employment, for example, by doing more to address the causes of low pay and preventing discrimination at work.

Other key findings from the report include:
• Overall, 85% of the labour force were categorised as employees in 2018, compared with 87% in 1998. The proportion of full-time employees in 2018 was 63% compared to 65% in 1998.
• Average job tenure in the UK was 8.6 years in 2017, compared to 8 years in 1997. The share of employees in long-tenure jobs of 10 years or more has also hardly changed, standing at 32% in 2017, compared with 30% in 1997.
• The proportion of people categorised as self-employed increased from just under 13% to just under 15% between 1998 and 2018.

The report comes after the TUC issued its own study claiming the UK has “an insecure work crisis” with one in nine workers in precarious jobs – 1.85m in low-paid self-employment earning less than the minimum wage and a similar number are in other forms of insecure work – including zero-hours, agency, seasonal and casual workers. It is calling for a ban on zero-hours contracts and a clamp down on false self-employment as well as for all workers to get access to basic rights, including redundancy pay and family-friendly rights.

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