Low unemployment? Here’s the real story

22nd February 2016 / United Kingdom

The latest UK jobs figures show the headline unemployment rate has remained unchanged from last month’s decade-low 5.1%.

More than 31.4 million people are now in work in the UK, with a 60,000 fall in unemployment between October and December last year.

This is welcome news – but it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know.

Working, but not enough

It doesn’t tell us anything about the huge numbers of people still in precarious, low-paid employment.

Many of these people who are moving into work are doing so with fewer hours and lower incomes than they need to get by.

Despite a recovery in employment to pre-crisis levels, underemployment – when people are in work part time, with fewer hours than they need – rose rapidly during the recession and is still worryingly high.

800,000 employees currently say they are working fewer hours than they need, and that’s on top of the 700,000 people on zero-hour contracts.

We need a proper pay rise

What’s more, many people are not able to find a job that pays at least the Living Wage – the hourly rate calculated at a level to provide for a basic standard of living.

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The Government’s minimum wage increase due to be brought in from this Spring is not actually a living wage – because it’s not enough to live off. It falls significantly short of the independently calculated amount needed to meet the minimum standard of living.

Investing in our future

We need to stop this trend of higher headline employment figures coming at the cost of diminishing job quality.

The Government has to do much more to encourage employers to provide greater job security. It should also ensure companies provide decent incomes for their staff – starting with a crackdown on the 92 UK companies still not paying the current legal minimum.

Addressing the UK’s investment shortfall to stimulate the creation of more high-quality, full time jobs, would be another good step.

Then maybe we can talk about the plans for a “wage-led economy” we keep hearing about.

Article by neweconomics.org

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