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Rise in number of underemployed workers

The number of underemployed workers, people who are in employment but want to work more hours, has risen by one million since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 to stand at 3.05 million in 2012, according to a new report from the Office for National Statistics.

The occupation category that consistently has the highest rate of underemployment is ‘elementary occupations’ (such as labourers, cleaners and catering staff). Within this category, those with some of the highest underemployment rates in 2012 are school crossing/midday assistants (39.4%), bar staff (32.9%) and cleaners (30.9%).

Underemployment rates vary across the English regions and devolved countries of the UK. Taking a four-year average from 2009 to 2012, the highest underemployment rate was in the East Midlands where 10.7% of workers wanted more hours in work. This was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (10.6%), the North East (10.5%) and the South West (10.4%). The lowest underemployment rate was in the South East at 9.2%.

In 2012, 24% of part-time workers were underemployed, compared with just 6% of full-time workers. Another key factor influencing underemployment is the level of earnings. In 2012 the average underemployed employee earned a gross hourly wage of £7.49 while the average non-underemployed employee earned £10.81.

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