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Part-time work rising

Part-time jobs most significant factor in jobs rise

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics this month (covering the period to May 2010) show that part-time working now accounts for 27% of jobs in the UK, the highest ever level.  The rise accounts for most of the the first increase in overall employment since the UK slid into recession in 2008.

There are now 7.8 million part-time workers out of a working population of 29 million.  Three quarters of part-time workers are women, but the number of male part-timers has risen by 10% over the recession, with the number of women rising 3%.

A quarter of male part-timers say that they are working part-time because they could not find a full-time job, as opposed to 10% of women.  Overall, the number of people who say they take part time work because they can't find a full-time one has risen from 9% to 14% since 2008.

Will it last?

This leaves the question open as to whether the numbers may fall again as we emerge from recession.  The signs are that we will not be emerging from the recession very fast.  And with the axe poised to fall across the public sector, it may be that reduced hours working will increase as public sector employers try to retain valued workers while cutting costs.

On the other hand, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that women's jobs are in the firing line if there are extensive cuts to public services, many of which are part-time.  

They may be right.  However, there has been an extensive squeeze in the public sector already as in all other sectors, yet the numbers of part-time workers have continued to rise. 



July 2010

Flexibility comment

The continued rise in part-time working is a response to employment pressures during the recession.  But it is not only that.

The increase in part-time working has in many ways been the big story of changes in working practices over the past 30 years.  And it is strongly connected to increased women's participation in the workforce.

Over the past decade, the government has promoted part-time to encourage more parents and carers into work.  And over the next decade we will see an increase in the numbers of older workers, many of whom will prefer to work part-time.

So although individual part-time workers may go for full-time jobs when they become available, the underlying trend will still be upwards, hitting 30% by the middle of the decade.




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