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MYTH: Permanent employee jobs are no longer the norm

TRUTH: Permanent jobs remain the bedrock of the UK labour market
In both 1995 and 2015 nearly 80 per cent of people worked in permanent jobs. Self employment has increased slightly but temporary work has fallen.

Notes: permanent employees is total employees minus temporary employees. Second job holders include self-employed. Other jobs are unpaid family workers and people on government training and employment programmes. All figures June- August 2015.

Source: ONS Labour Market Release, reference table EMPO1.

Permanent full time work is disappearing
The number of employees in full-time employment fell during the great recession – from 19.2 million in early 2008 to 18.2 million. By mid-2016, the number had risen again, to 19.7 million.

Between 2008 and 2011, numbers in full-time self-employment also fell slightly, from just over 2.9 million to just below. By 2016 this had risen to some 3.4 million. The percentage of those with jobs who are self-employed has risen from about 12% at the turn of the millennium to just under 15% in 2016. This has been linked in many people’s minds with the rise of the gig economy – though The Work Foundation estimates that only about 6% of all jobs in the UK currently fit the description of gig economy employment. It is important to note that, while workers in the gig economy are formally self-employed, much of the work that they undertake may be for a single client, and in such cases the extent to which they are distinct from employees may be moot.

While the proportional increase in self-employment in recent years has been huge (an 18% rise since 2011), this amounts to a little over half a million new jobs. The increase in the number of employees in employment (representing an 8% rise on a larger base) amounts to 1.5 million new jobs.

During the early stages of the recovery, part-time employment increased much faster than full-time employment. For example, in the year to the third quarter of 2012, the number of part-time employees rose by 210000 while the number of full-time employees increased by only 70000. This gave rise to concerns about underemployment and a lack of job security. At The Work Foundation, we have tracked the development of underemployment on a regular basis through publication of the Bell-Blanchflower index. While the extent of underemployment continues to have important implications for the output gap, it has been falling over recent quarters.

The mix of modes of employment is certainly evolving – in particular, the numbers of self-employed workers have increased markedly as a proportion of the whole. But the proportion of jobs taken by full-time employees has changed relatively little (from 64.5% to 62.2%) over the last quarter of a century.