Controversial zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid and insecure jobs, according to a new report published today.
An analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that in addition to the 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a further 820,000 workers are underemployed – working between 0 and 19 hours a week.
The TUC says that whilst zero-hours contracts have featured heavily in the news, underemployment is blighting the lives of “hundreds of thousands of workers” struggling to make ends meet.
Workers on ‘short-hours contracts’ are typically paid a much lower hourly wage than other workers, the TUC says. The hourly rate for a short-hours worker is just £8.40, compared to an overall average for all employees of £13.20 an hour.
According to the TUC, short-hours contracts “give too much power to the employer” and allows them to escape having to pay National Insurance for their employees.
Like zero-hours contracts, workers on short-hours contracts can be offered as little as one hour paid work each week and have to compete with colleagues for extra hours.
Workers in the retail sector are the hardest hit by low-paid contracts. Nearly 250,000 people working in shops, supermarkets, warehouses and garages are trapped on short-hours – 29% of all underemployed workers. This compares to 16% in the education sector, 14% in food services and 12% of health and social care workers.
The TUC’s report shows that women account for nearly three-quarters (71.5%) of all workers trapped on short-hours contracts.
Zero-hours and short-hours contracts, along with low-paid and bogus self-employment, have reduced tax revenues and are harming the UK economy, according to the TUC.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid, insecure work.
“Hundreds of thousands of other workers find themselves trapped on short-hours contracts that simply do not guarantee enough hours for them to make ends meet.
“Like zero-hours contracts, short-hour contracts give too much power to the employer. Bosses have an incentive to offer low wages and fewer hours to get out of paying national insurance.
“Without more decent jobs, people will continue to have to survive off scraps of work and UK productivity will continue to tank.”
The report also draws attention to a sharp increase in self-employment, which accounts for 31% of the net rise in employment since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that average earning for self-employed people have fallen dramatically by 22% since 2008/09.
New figures published by Eurostat place the UK at 23rd out of 28 for its record on underemployment.
The figures show that UK underemployment is 31% higher than the EU average, which the TUC says is a sign of the Government’s failure to create high-quality jobs.
Frances O’Grady said:
“These figures show what a bad time British people are having at work compared with their European neighbours.
“We have a fragile recovery built on pumped-up house prices, instead of the strong foundation of good quality jobs with decent hours and wages.
“The current approach just isn’t delivering enough high quality jobs to meet demand and it’s leaving too many families struggling to get by on scraps of work.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 27 Apr 2015
The number of ‘under-employed’ workers in the North East has increased by 16% since the last election, figures reveal.
The underemployed are people who want to work more hours in their present job, like those in a part-time role who want to go full-time.
Analysis by the TUC from the Labour Force Survey shows that since the May 2010 election, under-employment has also gone up more than 20,000, from 127,578 to 148,368 in this region.
The fastest increase, from 9,000 to 11,500, has been among self-employed people who say they are under-employed – a 127% rise.
The TUC says this shows that despite talk of a recovery, continual real wage falls mean more people than ever are looking for extra hours to make ends meet.
North East TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat said:
“Ministers have made much of the UK’s improving jobs figures as a sign that all is now well with the economy. But here in the North East we have suffered the double whammy of rising joblessness and under-employment.
“There are now over 20,000 more people who would like to be working more hours than they are.
“As the squeeze on pay continues, many people don’t have enough money for everyday essentials, let alone the cash to cover any unexpected emergencies.
“With no let up in their financial woes in sight, people are understandably looking to take on more hours just to keep the wolf from the door.
“Without a decent pay rise and the creation of more permanent, secure jobs, under-employment is unlikely to fall any time soon.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman claimed the TUC’s figures were misleading.
“Independent statistics show that there are over 100,000 fewer people who say they are under-employed compared to a year ago, and that full-time jobs account for more than three quarters of the rise in employment since 2010.
“The proportion of part-time workers wanting a full-time job has just seen the biggest annual fall in over two decades.
“The overwhelming majority of those working part-time do so because it suits their circumstances, for example students or those with caring or parenting responsibilities. “
However, when contacted further and asked if the DWP disputed the TUC’s North East figures, there was no further reply.
> I bet there wasn’t… guy’s nose had probably grown so long he couldn’t get near the phone.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 03 Sept 2014