From the TUC

Insecure work is up by a quarter since 2011. Which sectors are driving this?

07 Feb 2017, by in Labour market

The number of people in insecure work, those working without guaranteed hours or baseline employment rights, has rapidly increased by more than 660,000 (27%) over the past five years. The TUC estimates that over 3 million people now work in insecure jobs; this represents 1 in 10 workers in the UK. In new analysis, we show that while the new economy is playing a part in driving the trend towards insecurity, much of the increase in insecure work comes within industries that have been around for decades.

We define those in insecure work as those in seasonal, casual, temporary or agency work, those on zero-hours contracts and the low-paid self-employed workers. These forms of insecure work have the following in common:

  • Wages can fluctuate without warning
  • Workers have access to fewer rights, and it can be hard to get the rights they have respected
  • Workers in these jobs frequently miss out on key protections like sick pay; and
  • This type of work often means being at the mercy of bosses who can withdraw hours or even take you off the job with no notice.

Our previous analysis in ‘Living on the edge’ the rise of job insecurity in modern Britain, set out to show how key risks associated with work have been increasingly transferred to working people, while any financial rewards from flexibility have accrued to employers.

The analysis published today, explores which sectors are experiencing the growth in insecure work. This finds the growth in people in precarious work that leaves them vulnerable is being driven mainly by traditional industries, rather than newer tech sectors. Teachers, care workers and waiters are driving the increase.

  • Restaurant and pub waiters make up one fifth of the increase: The number in insecure work more than doubled, rising by 146,000 (+128%) since 2011. 1 in 4 waiting staff (259,000) are now stuck in insecure work.
  • Education workers account for over one tenth of the increase: The number in insecure work has risen by 82,000 since 2011 (+42%). 1 in 10 working in education now face insecurity.
  • Social care accounts for a tenth of the increase in precarious working. The number of care home workers facing insecurity has risen by 66,000 (+133%) since 2011. Over 1 in 10 are now in insecure jobs.

Increase in insecure work by sector

The growth in these three sectors make up almost half the increase in insecure work since 2011 (44%) of the increase. Food and beverage services alone results in 22% of the 660,000 increase in insecure work.

The table below looks at the data different way, rather than showing the proportion of the increase in insecure work accounted for by different industries (where larger industries are more likely to be driving the trends), this shows the risk within each sector of being on an insecure contract.

Some of the sectors are those that we’ve always seen as insecure – it’s no surprise that the industry with the highest proportion of insecure workers is ‘creative, arts and entertainment’.

We can also see some of the jobs we often associate with the ‘new economy’ here – over a third of drivers – including taxi drivers – face some kind of insecurity, as do nearly one in five couriers.

But perhaps more worrying is the appearance of sectors where we might have expected to see more secure jobs – manufacturing for example, or those working in libraries and museums.

We’ll have more analysis out soon looking at what might be driving this increase in insecurity – and the features of the sectors where insecurity is concentrated. But what these figures tell us is that if we want to tackle this insecurity we’ll need a broad focus – beyond focusing on the latest app.

Job insecurity league table: – where workers are mostly likely to face insecurity

3 Responses to Insecure work is up by a quarter since 2011. Which sectors are driving this?

  1. Duncan Lindo
    Feb 7th 2017, 9:30 am

    Your analysis make we wonder how much of the increase in insecure work is coming from sectors we used to consider “public service” and is related to privatisation and outsourcing as local authorities react to central government’s removal of funding.

  2. Precarious work – the union experience
    Mar 10th 2017, 7:30 am

    […] Recent TUC research has found that insecure work has increased in the last five years, with over 3 million people now working in insecure jobs; this represents 1 in 10 workers in the UK. […]

  3. North East is England’s insecure work hot spot
    Mar 15th 2017, 5:05 pm

    […] TUC estimates that over 3 million people now work in insecure jobs. Our previous analysis showed that the number of insecure jobs has soared by 27 per cent, or 660,000 over the past five […]

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