Britain Today,  Economy


The Office of National Statistics recently covered the rise of underemployment during the Great Recession.

Although the definition of the term can be subjective – individuals who merely are prepared to work more hours whilst currently being in full-time (or near enough) employment, or some of the multitude of university graduates who believe working in ice-cream parlours or call-centres is beneath them – it is notable that the average underemployed individual earned £7.49 per hour (£3 per hour less than non-underemployed respondent) and that those in part-time employment were more likely to have described themselves as such with one in four doing so; and underemployment was more prevalent in economically depressed regions of England & Wales, such as the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, the North East and the South West.

(Scotland is recorded as a single region and, although a recent report in the Scotsman does not differentiate between internal regions and elides the higher levels in said regions of England and Wales by stating that the Scottish level is higher than “many regions”, internal regions undoubtedly will record higher than average levels.)

Also notably, the bulk of the current 10% of the national workforce which defines itself as underemployed occurred in the 12 months after the financial crash whilst the great and merely wealthy behind the monumental levels of ineptitude bordering on out-right malfeasance escaped with the obloquy of harsh words in the media. Not for the first time, the archive images of former Wall Street spivs and speculators made homeless show their enduring appeal.

Overheard on a news report as I considered this piece, Grant Schapps announced that more people – and specifically, more women – currently were in employed than any point in British history. Setting aside the matter that more people currently live in Britain than at any point in British history, my first thought was how many were underemployed.

Continuing an original appointment decision of comic proportions, Ed Balls has posited plans to require the long-term unemployment to take any minimum wage position through subsidized schemes. As yet, no suggestions have been offered as to how this would avoid further underemployment of highly qualified or previously senior individuals being bounced down to low/unskilled positions, or if the creation of another tranche of state-funded employers would reverse the less-than-inglorious success of the Work Programme or avoid situations reminiscent of Close Protection UK.

The Independent contrasts such statements with Labour’s continued opposition to the Welfare Uprating Bill.

Update: Last month, a caller to London’s Biggest Conversation was ridiculed for revealing that – after being unemployed for seven years – he had refused an eight-to-four job on the grounds that it was too early a start.  One aspect with niggled me was that it was unclear whether or not the job was to be full or part-time (it certainly would be minimum wage).  If the latter, there would be every possibility that with the laborious and often time-delayed paperwork required of claimants doing bit-work, it would impact on the finances of someone operating according to a hand-to-mouth basis.

And such work would be more regular than cash-in-hand work which the caller also admitted to.  Again, current Jobcentreplus procedures almost conspire against such people who keep in work-mode but wish to remain honest with the state agencies. 

One thing was sure, though.  The caller was inarticulate and had next-to-no idea of how he came across to other people.

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