Number of underemployed reaches one million

The number of workers who want to work more hours has risen by an estimated one million since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 with part-time workers the most affected, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number of underemployed people now stands at 3.05 million in 2012 or just over 10% of the UK workforce. Nearly two thirds of the one million increase took place in the 12 months between 2008 and 2009, when the economy was in recession.

From 2000 to just before the 2008/09 recession the number of people underemployed was relatively steady and since 2009 the number has been rising, although at a much slower rate than during the recession, says the ONS.

The ONS says there are many possible factors behind why a worker is underemployed, for example, they may take a part-time job when they want a full-time one or their employer may only be able to offer limited hours.

The majority (76.3%) of underemployed people stated a desire to increase their hours in their current job. A further 15.0% wished to increase hours by finding a replacement post, leaving only 8.7% who wanted an additional role.

Of the 3.05 million underemployed workers, the majority, 1.88 million (61.7%) were in part-time roles. Of the extra one million underemployed workers in 2012 compared with 2008, three quarters were in part-time posts. The ONS adds that underemployed employees earned £7.49 per hour while non-underemployed employees earned £10.81, indicating that employees who desire more hours are likely to be on low wages.

Those particularly affected by underemployment are young workers and low paid workers. Those with some of the highest underemployment rates in 2012 are school crossing/midday assistants (39.4%), bar staff (32.9%) and cleaners (30.9%).

The self-employed have also been badly affected. From 2000, the underemployment rate for the self employed was below that for employees until the economic downturn in 2008, it then rose sharply and in 2012 both rates were similar at over 10%. For those self-employed, 10.8% wanted to work more hours while for those working as employees, 10.5% wanted more hours. Of the one million increase in underemployment since 2008 around one in every five were working for themselves.

The highest underemployment rate was in the East Midlands where 10.7% of workers wanted more hours in work. This was followed by Yorkshire and The Humber (10.6%), the North East (10.5%) and the South West (10.4%). The lowest underemployment rate was in the South East at 9.2%.

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