While the unemployment figures make the headlines with depressing regularity, what is less well reported is the level of underemployment. TUC analysis out today shows that the number of people who are working part time because they can’t find full time work is rising dramatically.
While there are still many more women than men who report that they do not want full time work (854,000 men as opposed to 4,287,000 women at the last count), there has been a notable decrease in the number of women who do not want full time work. This is matched by an increase in women who are working part time because they can’t find a full time job.
Increasing rates of part time work amongst women are often seen as unproblematic as there’s a presumption that all women with children want to work part time (never mind the fact that many are lone parents and have no other source of income, or are the main breadwinner or sole earner in a couple and cannot afford to work part time, or they simply like their jobs and want to work full time).
In fact, you don’t have to dig too deep in the depths of the ONS labour market data to see that increasing numbers of women are finding themselves in part time work, not through choice, but through lack of full time alternatives.
The number of under-employed women has increased by 74 per cent.
There are noticeable regional variations too with the number of women trapped in involuntary part-time work has more than doubled in Northern Ireland and London since December 2007.
The ONS data shows that while the number of women who are working part time but would like to be full time is on the rise, the number of women working part-time who don’t want a full-time job, often because of family and caring responsibilities, has been falling. I’ve tried to illustrate the changing pattern of involuntary versus voluntary part time work with a chart.
Part time women who could not find a full time job (red line – right axis) compared to part time women who did not want a full time job (blue line – left axis)
With the threshold for receiving tax credits set to change from 16 hours to 24 hours, those stuck involuntarily in part time work are set to lose out yet again.
Furthermore, under Universal Credit, new conditions will be placed on in-work benefits which will mean that employees earning less than £212.80 per week will be obliged to work more hours or face sanctions.
Where all of this extra work is meant to be found remains a mystery.