Working, but not for long enough: UK’s 3 million underemployed feel the pinch

One worker in 10 denied the chance to put in more hours and earn more money, figures reveal

More than three million Britons are “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 has masked the fact that one worker in 10 is being denied the chance to put in more hours and earn more money, Office of National Statistics (ONS) 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 more than three million. More than three-quarters 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. 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. But today’s figures suggested that many people in part-time jobs would prefer to work full time.

ONS statisticians said there were many reasons why a worker might be underemployed, including employers only offering limited hours or the job only being available at certain times, such as bar work.

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

Nearly two-thirds of the one million increase took place in the 12 months between 2008 and 2009, while the economy was in recession. Between 2000 and 2008 the number of people wanting to work more hours had remained steady. Since 2009 the figure had continued to rise, although at a much slower rate than during the recession, the ONS said.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said the figures demonstrated the fragility of the jobs market. “Around two and a half million across the UK are currently out of work. But this figure only tells half the story,” he said.

Andrew Sissons, a researcher at The Work Foundation, added: “Underemployment is a serious concern that is getting worse despite improvements in the labour market overall with one in 10 workers now in this position.  Not only are underemployed workers struggling to make ends meet, they are also increasing the competition for jobs.”

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... For many it is an important step to full-time work and coming off benefits.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor