Underemployment gap biggest since 2000, according to official job figures

Nearly one in 10 workers in Scotland want to work more hours, report finds 

New analysis of official job figures today reveals the scale of ‘underemployment’ – the numbers of workers in the UK who want to work more hours.
Nearly one in 10 workers in Scotland (9.4%) want to work more hours, rising to one in five for part time workers, with the gap between unemployment and underemployment at its largest since 2000.
The research was carried out by UK employment support provider Reed in Partnership, whose report entitled ‘The case for an in-work progression service’ says the Government is right to now focus on greater support for those in work not just those who are unemployed.
Reed in Partnership says the Government intends to establish an in-work progression service, making the UK one of the first countries in the world to attempt a large-scale programme to support low paid people to increase their earnings.
Its report calls for the underemployment rate to be published alongside unemployment figures, alongside additional support with better careers guidance in schools and colleges and support for women returning to work including ‘wraparound’ childcare for older children.

It says some of the biggest risk factors affecting underemployment include:

· gender – women (10.7%) are more likely to be looking for additional hours than men (8.4%). This is likely to be as a result of childcare responsibilities – women had lower underemployment in their early twenties, but this increases significantly in their 30s and 40s.  
age – with young people aged 18 (+20%) are four times more likely to want to work more hours than those aged 60 (5%)
ethnicity –  those of Bangladeshi origin (18%) and Black / African / Carribean (14.8%) are most likely to be underemployed; compared to 8.9% for White British.
degree subject – with those who have studied technology or arts subjects most likely to want to work more hours.

Reed in Partnership’s report is calling for five changes to tackle underemployment:  

· Underemployment rates should be published alongside headline unemployment rates to drive the focus of policy making.
Skills should be better aligned with employment opportunities, with better employer engagement in schools and colleges. This includes providing young people with better careers guidance, and information about the employability potiential of different subjects at an early stage in their education.
People with particular health conditions are substantially more likely to be underemployed than the population as a whole and an In-Work Support Service should incorporate assistance to manage health conditions to prevent them being a barrier to progression.
More support should be provided to women returning to work after having children as well as supporting lone parents. The Government has, rightly, sought to improve access to childcare for 3-4 year olds, and should consider how access to affordable childcare can be ensured for those with older children.
Businesses should be provided with a better understanding of how foreign qualifications translate and increasing the availability of English language classes would help remove the barriers faced by people born outside of the UK.

Managing director of Reed in Partnership Martin Fallon, said: “While the reduction in unemployment is a good news story, it can mask the fact that millions of people across the UK would like to work more hours.
“Part-time work suits many people, but too often people get trapped in low paid jobs and don’t know how to progress to more hours and a better salary. The Government is right to want to expand its in-work support.”
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