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Andrew  Sissons

Rising underemployment reflects hidden weakness of UK economy

Authors: Andrew Sissons Andrew Sissons

28 November 2012

For immediate release:  28 November 2012

Commenting on today’s underemployment statistics, Andrew Sissons, researcher at The Work Foundation said:

“Underemployment is a serious concern that is getting worse despite improvements in the labour market overall, with one in ten workers now in this position. Not only are underemployed workers struggling to make ends meet, they are also increasing the competition for jobs, making it even harder to reduce unemployment.

“The burden of underemployment falls disproportionately on the youngest and lowest paid members of the workforce, with young people aged 16 to 24 twice as likely to be underemployed than the average. These groups are already facing unprecedented falls in living standards, and cannot find enough work to offset the increases in their living costs.

“The rise in underemployment reflects the flexibility of the UK labour market and highlights once again that there are few gains to be had from further labour market deregulation. It is a symptom of the overall weakness of the UK economy and has flattered the headline unemployment figure. The only solution to both underemployment and unemployment is a return to solid economic growth. The  government should be focusing its attention on the capital markets rather than the labour market in order to support this.


Notes to editors

1. According to the ONS, one in every ten workers is currently underemployed, a total of 3.05 million people. This has increased by over 1 million since the recession.

Underemployment means that someone would like more hours but is unable to find them. The majority (1.88 million) of underemployed workers are part-time, although a significant number of full time workers (1.17 million) are also seeking more hours.

Young people aged 16 – 24 are more than twice as likely than average to be underemployed, with 21.7% of young people in work seeking more hours. The median hourly wage for underemployed people is £7.49, around 30% below the median wage for non-underemployed workers.

2. Andrew Sissons is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

3. The Work Foundation will be holding a briefing on the Autumn Statement on 6 December from 6 – 7pm. Speakers include: Will Hutton (chair of the Big Innovation Centre), Mark Littlewood (director general of Institute of Economic Affairs) and Ian Brinkley (director of The Work Foundation). To reserve a place at this event, please email More information available here

4. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future, influencing policy and practice for the benefit of society. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

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