Part-time jobs are no substitute for full-time employment

As a result of the Coalition's policies, unemployment will remain at a very high level and around 1 million people who want to work full-time will remain stuck in part-time jobs.

George Osborne claimed in a speech yesterday that: “Employment is growing at the fastest pace for over a decade, confounding predictions that the economy cannot generate private sector jobs”.

In aggregate terms, this is true – in fact it could even be said to undersell the real situation. Employment in the latest three months (April to June) was 184,000 higher than in the previous three months. That is the biggest quarterly gain since 1989.

But the Chancellor failed to point out that somewhat less than half the increase in employment, 68,000, was accounted for by full-time employment, while part-time employment increased by 115,000. The gain in full-time employment is welcome, but not particularly noteworthy – larger increases were being recorded little more than two years ago. It is also, perhaps, not surprising given the number of jobs that were lost over the preceding two years.

This would not matter if people were choosing to work part-time, but this does not appear to be the case. Since the end of 2007 the number of part-time workers in the UK (excluding those on temporary contracts) has increased by 324,000.

But the number saying that they are working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment has gone up by 347,000, while those working part-time because they do not want full-time employment is virtually unchanged (up 3,000 – the numbers do not total because there are also people recorded as working part-time because they are disabled or students).

And, while he was fulsome in his praise for the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Chancellor also failed to mention its forecast that, as a result of public spending cuts and job losses in the government sector, employment levels in the UK will still be close to current levels in April 2012. This suggests that the present rate of private sector employment growth will not be sustained.

In other words, the private sector is not currently generating enough of the full-time jobs that people want and it is unlikely to do so over the next 18 months. As a result, unemployment will remain at a very high level and around 1 million people who want to work full-time will remain stuck in part-time jobs.

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