The number of people being forced to take precarious part-time work has shot up to a record high as the economic slump deepens.
A total of 1.31 million people who want to work full-time are only in part-time positions. Many are designated as self-employed, which often means they are simply unable to find an employer to take them on and are forced to take whatever odd jobs they can.
The grim figure emerged in data from the Office for National Statistics yesterday that painted an awful picture of the jobs market after nearly two years of austerity and economic stagnation. The number of people unemployed leaped by 118,000 over the three months to November to 2.68 million – a 17-year high. Brendan Barber, the general-secretary of the Trades Union Council, said: "It's very concerning that the only area of the labour market that is growing at the moment is the number of involuntarily temporary jobs. These jobs are generally insecure, poorly paid and offer little or no career prospects. They may act as a short-term sticking plaster against unemployment but they are not the kind of jobs that can underpin our economic recovery."
Young and older people are bearing the brunt of the crisis, with the number of unemployed young people hitting new records in what the Government yesterday said were "exceptionally difficult economic circumstances".
A total of 1.04 million 16 to 24-year-olds and 404,000 people aged 50 to 64 were unemployed, with the older age group's numbers swelling by nearly 12 per cent, or 42,000, compared with the previous quarter.
The number of people taking early retirement also fell significantly, perhaps indicating people's nervousness about whether they can afford to retire, or be able to find alternative work if they did.
The figures reinforced predictions earlier this week from the respected Ernst & Young Item Club of economic forecasters that unemployment will approach three million by next spring.