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Scotland – One in ten underemployed

12 August 2013

One in ten people in the labour market now consider themselves as ‘underemployed’ and want to work  more hours, according to research compiled for the Scotland on Sunday. The findings show that the extra hours Scottish workers want to work were the equivalent of 50,000 extra full-time jobs.

The new figures, compiled by Professor David Bell and Professor David Blanchflower, and funded by the Economic Social Research council, estimate that ‘underemployment’ levels in Scotland are 9.8% - more than double pre-recession levels and significantly higher than official unemployment figures.

Professor Bell commented: “The recession has been accompanied by lots and lots of workers who say the would like to be working longer hours. It is due to a combination of reasons. One of the key things is that wages have been flat while prices have been going up, so take-home pay as been going less far since 2008. Some workers will also have had their hours cut.”

Union chiefs commented that it further exposed the economic hang-over from the recession, with stagnant wages and rising costs prompting extra demand for work, which employers are unable to provide.

Economists are warning that the demand for more work may now make it more difficult to reduce unemployment with underemployed people likely to take on extra hours being offered once the economy takes off, according to the Scotsman.

Stephen Boyd, assistant secretary for the Scottish Trade Union Congress commented: “With real wages now having fallen for 41 consecutive months, the demand for more hours is likely to increase, but employers will struggle to provide these hours as long as demand for goods and services remains depressed. If the nascent recovery does take a firmer hold, high levels of underemployment are also likely to constrain the labour market’s ability to create new jobs, as firms simply increase the hours of underemployed workers.”

David Lonsdale, assistant director of the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, commented: “The underemployment figure is a sign that the Scottish economy is operating below its potential. Every effort should be made to ensure that underemployment doesn’t become entrenched.”

Commenting to the Scotsman, a spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pension refuted the claim: “The total number of ours people are working continues to rise, and the latest statistics showed that the number of vacancies are continuing to increase – up +12% in the past year.”  

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