More than three million workers underemployed and wanting to work more

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The Independent Online

More than three million Britons are now "underemployed" and want to work more hours, making them the hidden victims of the recession, official figures have revealed.

Modest decreases in the total number of jobless have masked the fact that one in 10 workers are being denied the chance to put in more hours and earn more money to reduce the squeeze on their living standards, Office of National Statistics figures show.

One million more workers have reported being underemployed since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, with the total now standing at 3.05 million. More than three-quarters of these said they wanted to increase their hours, and many had asked their employers for more work but were turned down.

Labourers, cleaners, catering and bar staff, school crossing staff and lunchtime assistants reported some of the highest underemployment rates, as did young people.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, warned that people "increasingly face a merry-go-round of insecure, low-paid, part-time work".

The jobless total fell 50,000 to 2.53 million in the three months to August while the number claiming Jobseekers' Allowance has also declined.

Most underemployment was felt by part-time workers, with one in four saying they wanted to work more hours compared to just 5.5 per cent of full-time workers. The areas affected the most were the East Midlands, Yorkshire and The Humber.

Underemployment is highest among the lowest-paid and the youngest workers, who tend to be in part-time and temporary work.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said the figures demonstrated the fragility of the jobs market. He said: "Around two and a half million people across the UK are currently out of work. But this figure only tells half the story. Taking any job available, even if it meant lower pay and fewer hours, was a pragmatic response to the recession. The fact that the number of underemployed people continues to grow shows just how weak our recovery is."

But a Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "More than half of the 700,000 extra people in work since 2010 are working full-time and we have recently seen record numbers of people in employment.

"Part-time working suits millions of people and gives others the skills and experience to find a different job or take advantage of longer hours when they are available. For many people it is an important step to full-time work and coming off benefits."