One hour work a week – you’re officially employed

18th December 2018 / United Kingdom

In early 2010, The Telegraph newspaper seemed incandescent that a Labour government would have more than eight million people of working age – more than a fifth of the total – not in paid employment.

“The number of people who are neither in work nor seeking employment reached 8.08 million in the last three months of last year, the highest on record. In all, 21.3 per cent of working-age adults are now “economically inactive”, a category that includes students, the long-term sick, unpaid carers and those who retire early.”

The Telegraph continued with its piece blaming Labour for ‘disastrous’ numbers. “The figures were published by the Office for National Statistics, which also disclosed the number of people claiming jobseekers’ allowance at its highest since the month before Labour come to power in 13 years ago.The ONS said there were 1.04 million employees and self-employed people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job, the highest figure on record.”


Theresa May, the Conservative shadow work and pensions secretary, said in the same article: “It’s alarming that more and more people are giving up looking for a job altogether with record levels of economic inactivity. One in five people of working age you now meet won’t be employed and 5 million people in this country have never worked under Labour. This is a shocking indictment of Brown’s Britain.

Today, after eight years of Conservative rule, one would expect with such strong words from Theresa May that things have got a least a little better. Basically, it’s still 1 in 5 – but there’s skullduggery going to in the background.

In the full year of 2017, the total working-age population (people aged 16 to 64 years) in England, Wales and Scotland was just under 40 million. The government of today have deliberately confused many of the official figures of employment by quoting statistics for England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland collectively and then just England or by ethnicity in particular.

The rate is now 21 percent or 8.4 million. In percentage terms, it is lower than in 2010 but in numbers terms, it is higher. But there are other factors involved here that the government have used to obfuscate the truth.


Unlike in 2000, today, you can be registered as employed as far as the government is concerned if you work and get paid for just one hour in a week. Just to clarify again – the government classes any individual who gets paid for just one hour work as in employment and is therefore economically active.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) were asked whether working just one hour a week was all that was needed to be officially classified as employed by the state. The ONS confirmed that was the case.


This also encapsulates nearly one million people now working on zero-hours contracts where no work is guaranteed and 1.1 million people working in the so-called ‘gig-economy.’

Just three weeks ago the ONS put out its most recent survey which put the UK employment rate (of people aged 16-64) at 75.5% representing one of the highest employment rates ever achieved.

The figures were welcomed by the government, with Employment Minister Alok Sharma saying: “The benefits of a strong jobs market are paying off.


The UK lies 15th out of the 35 members of the OECD in terms of average wages.

In the meantime, the average pay packet in Britain in five years’ time will still be more than £20 lower than it was before the start of the financial crisis as the biggest squeeze on wages since the end of the Napoleonic Wars extends well into a second decade.

A report in The Guardian focused on statistics by the Resolution Foundation, which said: “wages were on course to be £24.50 a week lower in inflation-adjusted terms in 2022 than anticipated at the time of the March 2017 budget. This would leave them £22.70 or just over 4% below their level in 2007 and delay the return to their pre-crisis peak into later in the 2020s.

According to the foundation, the last time Britain suffered a decade of productivity growth as weak as that since 2007 was in the 10-year period which started in 1812 – the year of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Wage growth over the past 10 years has been the worst since the period starting in 1825.”






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