Nationally, 1.42 million people are in part time work whilst looking for a new full time job, adding a huge amount of competition for jobs for the 2.59 million people who are unemployed. In addition to that, there are almost 2 million people who are trying to get more hours from their employer, reducing the number of jobs that will come onto the market, since employers are more likely to give existing employees more hours rather than create a new post.
Midlands TUC Regional Secretary Rob Johnston said that
Unemployment is a major problem across the west midlands. But this only tells half the story. Nearly a quarter of a million people are trapped in jobs that don’t have enough hours to provide the income they need to get by. Fewer hours mean less pay, and an even bigger struggle to pay the bills.
Young people, women and low skilled workers are bearing the brunt of our under-employment crisis. It is alarming just how few young people today are able to find a job working enough hours. This is a criminal waste of the talent and skills they have – all because of a crisis they didn’t cause.
Solving our under-employment crisis is not easy, and it won’t be tackled through endless unpaid work initiatives.
Underemployment is also a big issue in retail, where zero-hour contracts have become the norm, allowing employers to reduce people’s hours at will. Such jobs are particularly threatened by unpaid labour supplied by government workfare schemes, with many shop workers reporting a loss in hours or overtime as companies take advantage of the free, forced labour produced by workfare.
This growing group of workers will find themselves being punished for the economic conditions that have lead to them being underemployed when Universal Credit comes in to replace existing benefits including working and child tax credits. Under the new scheme – which has been called “unworkable” by government advisors – those who are working part time will need to fulfill similar conditionality regimes to current Job Seekers Allowance claimants, showing that they are doing everything they can to find a full time job or increase their hours. If they cannot show this, then they will face sanctions – potentially for as long as 3 years.
This change comes on top of the loss of up to £4,000/year in tax credits for parents who have been unable to increase their hours from 16 to 24 in order to be able to claim these benefits.
Whilst unemployment figures have been decreasing slightly in the past quarter, this has been matched by a rise in part time work and self-employment. Along with increased training and workfare schemes removing people from the unemployment numbers and sanctions taking people off the claimant count, these falls in unemployment must be viewed with skepticism at best. With austerity failing to reduce the deficit, and producing a double dip recession, now is the time to demand the government changes course and implements alternatives to austerity – useful investments into our economy to create jobs and improve people’s lives. Join us on the streets for the Tory Conference demonstration in Birmingham on Sunday 7th October and in London for the national TUC demonstration on Saturday 20th October.