James Moore: Sorry, guys - poorly paid, part-time jobs are nothing to boast about


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The Independent Online

Outlook A good day for the Coalition’s economic team? Unemployment is officially below  2 million and the jobless rate of 6 per cent is at its lowest since the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in 2008.

Britain is the job-creation capital of Western economies, Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, declared grandiosely.

Not to be outdone, Esther McVey, the Conservative Employment minister, said the figures prove that the Government’s long-term economic plan “to help businesses create jobs and get people working again” is a success. It is – but only if you believe an economy that leads to people getting progressively poorer in insecure jobs can be characterised thus.

On the same day it was revealed that wages grew by just 0.7 per cent over the last month, still well below the 1.2 per cent rate of inflation. As TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, the UK has been living through the longest and deepest pay cut in record. And there is no end in sight.

A deeper look at the figures casts an unflattering light on the nature of work today. Let’s consider the March to May figures for 2008. Not including those in unpaid family work or on Government training schemes, there were 25.5 million employees at that time, and 3.8 million self-employed people. Now there are 26 million employees and 4.5 million classed as self-employed or freelancers.

So it isn’t so much the Government and it isn’t so much businesses that are creating jobs. People are creating them for themselves.

It’s also worth looking at the split between full and part-time employment. Of those classified as being in employment before Lehman’s went down in 2008, some 22.1 million were in full-time work while 7.5 million were in part-time work. Now it’s 22.5 million in full-time work, and 8.3 million part-timers. 

And what the statistics don’t tell us is how many part-timers, or freelancers for that matter, are unhappy with that situation and are in it because it’s their only option.

What’s more, a low wage economy with lots of part-timers has a significant, and negative, impact on tax revenues. It is, in fact, one reason why the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan appears to have been blown off course. Isn’t dealing with the deficit supposed to have been one of the core aims of the Coalition’s economic policy? If I were Mr Alexander or Ms McVey I might not be so quick to crow.