Women ‘more likely than men to be underemployed’

A million more workers are under-employed now than on the eve of the recession in early 2008 with women one of the groups that has been particularly affected, according to a TUC analysis of official figures.

The number of under-employed workers – those doing part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time ones or wanting more hours in their current jobs – has increased by 42 per cent over the last four years to reach 3.3 million, says the TUC.

According to the analysis, more than one in ten workers across the UK are under-employed, though the likelihood of being affected varies considerably by age, gender and job sector.

Women are more likely to be under-employed than men, with around one in eight employed women finding themselves without enough hours, it says.

The research also found under-employment is most common in low-skilled jobs, where around one in five workers are not getting enough hours. People working in sales and customer services are also increasingly likely to be under-employed. These occupations also have the highest rates of unemployment.

There has also been a recent surge in under-employment in professional occupations such as teaching, nursing, legal and skilled business jobs. The number of under-employed women in these jobs has more than doubled since 2008, increasing by 127 per cent, says the TUC.

Young people are almost twice as likely to be under-employed as any other age group with around one in five young people in this position.

The sharpest rises in under-employment have taken place in Northern Ireland, the East Midlands and the North West although levels have increased by at least a third in every region of the UK, says the TUC which is concerned that under-employment is becoming an ever-more permanent feature of the labour market.

Under-employment causes a huge cut in pay, and often also involves working well below your skill level. Long periods of this kind of work can put a real strain on the finances of workers and their families, and can damage people’s career prospects, says the TUC.

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 today are able to find a job working enough hours. This is a criminal waste of the talent and skills they have – all because of a crisis they didn’t cause.

“Any job may be better than no job at all, but long periods of under-employment can do permanent damage to people’s careers. Ministers need to start taking the issue seriously as it’s dragging down the economy as well as causing financial hardship.

“Solving our under-employment crisis is not easy, and it won’t be tackled through endless unpaid work initiatives.

“What the country needs is an economic strategy that puts people’s futures ahead of self-defeating austerity. Cuts in infrastructure spending must be reversed and growing industries need more government support. We also need banks to start lending again, so that businesses can grow and create jobs.”

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