Belfast Telegraph

37% leap in underemployment puts Northern Ireland at bottom of UK league

By Alan Jones and Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's workforce has seen the biggest jump in underemployment of any UK region, a report has revealed.

The TUC said the number of people looking for extra hours to make ends meet had surged by 37% since 2010.

The union added that, UK-wide, there were 3.4 million people who could be classed as underemployed – an increase of almost 100,000 over the last two years and more than a million higher than before the recession.

The number of people working part-time because they could not find full-time work, or who want more hours in their contract, has increased for employees and the self-employed, said the report.

Unemployment has fallen by 400,000 since 2012, but the TUC claimed that since the coalition had come to power in 2010, underemployment had increased by 432,000 and showed little sign of slowing down.

A labour force survey published last month for April to June said that the number of people in employment in Northern Ireland was the highest ever at 821,000.

But 'in employment' doesn't necessarily mean full-time jobs, but encompasses paid part-time work, or unpaid work.

Northern Ireland had the biggest jump in underemployment at 37%, followed by the East of England (25%), Wales (21%) and the North West (18%).

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Ministers have made much of the improving jobs figures as a sign that all is now well with the economy.

"But although unemployment is falling, there are still nearly 3.4 million people who would like to be working more hours than they are.

"With more jobs being created, you'd expect that underemployment would be on the wane too, but sadly with part-time, temporary, low-paid jobs often the only work that people can get, underemployment remains stubbornly high and is still rising.

"As the squeeze on pay continues, many people don't have enough money for everyday essentials, let alone the cash to cover any unexpected emergencies. With no let-up in their financial woes in sight, people are understandably looking to take on more hours just to keep the wolf from the door.

"Without a decent pay-rise and the creation of more permanent, secure jobs, underemployment is unlikely to fall any time soon."

Speaking last month, Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the high numbers in work reflected economic recovery in Northern Ireland, but he admitted wage growth was still subdued.

"Households are in work and availing of work but are not necessarily getting paid more for it," Mr Ramsey said.

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