There seems to be a perpetual stream of employment figures released on a near daily basis at the moment. ‘Wages up’ and ‘unemployment down’ seem to have featured quite heavily in recent headlines. Figures such as these can prove reassuring, injecting the public with a sense of confidence that the economic situation is indeed improving in a manner that the everyday person on the street can feel in their pocket.
Indeed the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just announced that the UK unemployment rate has fallen to 6%, still much too high, but a far cry from the 8+ % that was seen at the height of the financial crisis in 2011.
It’s very important to bear in mind though, that the headline unemployment figures, released on a monthly basis by the ONS are crude figures and make no reference to important indicators such as level of employment, salary and contracted hours, of the people gaining employment. It would be foolhardy therefore to rely on such figures as an indicator for the current state of the UK’s economy… they have their role to play but we must refrain from jumping up and down in a premature self-congratulatory fashion.
This issue is nicely demonstrated by some figures (yes more figures) released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) last week, which stated the shocking statistic that, whilst headline unemployment figures may be down, just one in forty of the jobs created by the UK economy in the years 2008 – 2014 were full-time positions. Or to put it another more sensationalist way, 97% of the new jobs currently being created by our economy are part-time.
A nation of part-time workers
The issue is further compounded by the fact that the overall percentage of full-time roles in the UK fell dramatically during the recession from 64% in 2008 to 62% 2014, a figure which has stubbornly refused to increase. A two percent fall in the full-time position ‘share’ of the employment market might not sound like a lot, but it equates to around about 670,000 positions which were once full-time, but no longer are.
The problem that this creates has major implications, not only for the people working in the positions but for the country’s economy as a whole. Aside from the incredible frustration felt by those who are underemployed in part-time positions, the financial challenges which are caused by having to work a reduced working week have a negative knock-on impact on our local economies as well.
Such hardship and uncertainty may well help to explain the remarkable surge in self-employment which has defied all sense and reason in recent years. 24 out of every 40 jobs added to the economy over the past 6 years have been a move into self-employment. Such a startling increase in the number of people claiming to be self-employed demonstrates very nicely that even whilst on the brink of financial ruin, the country’s entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t taken the battering that traditional employment has… quite the contrary.
The rapid rise in UK self employment figures is indicative of a labour market that has undergone significant fundamental alterations to its basic makeup. Most recent numbers suggest that, compared with 2008 there are now 378,000 more part time employees, 340,000 more part -time self employed workers, 310,000 full time self employed workers and just 26,000 more full-time employees.
How has your employment status changed over the course of the recession and what long term implications do you think that the current workforce statistics will have?