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UK – Underemployment on the rise

28 November 2012

The number of underemployed workers, people who are in employment but want to work more hours, has risen by 1 million since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 to reach 3.05 million in 2012, a new report from the Office for National Statistics shows today.

Before the economic downturn in 2008, the number of underemployed workers was fairly stable but has since increased by 47%. Nearly two thirds of the increase took place in the 12 months between 2008 and 2009 during the recession. 

Since 2009, the number of underemployed workers has continued to rise but at a much slower rate, the ONS said. Underemployment is particularly ripe in ‘elementary occupations’ with school crossing/midday assistants (39.4%), bar staff (32.9%) and cleaners (30.9%) most affected in 2012.

From 2009 to 2012, the highest underemployment rate was seen in the East Midlands where 10.7% of workers wanted more hours in work, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (10.6%), the North East (10.5%) and the South West (10.4%). The lowest rate was recorded in the South East at 9.2%.

Part-time workers are more affected by underemployment than full-time workers. Low pay may also be linked underemployment, which may explain why more younger workers (22%) were underemployed in 2012 than those aged between 35 and 49 (10%). 

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