“We want to earn a proper living – give us more work!”

Keen: Workers in all sectors are happy to be earning  but do they get enough hours?

Keen: Workers in all sectors are happy to be earning  but do they get enough hours?

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Unemployment may be falling, but there is growing concern about ‘under-employment’.DAVID NOWELL reports

“We want to earn a proper living – give us more work!”

That was the call today from Lancashire workers trapped in “underemployment”.

New analysis of official job figures today reveals the scale of ‘underemployment’ – the numbers of workers in the UK who want to work more hours.

Almost 1 in 10 workers in the North West want to work more hours, rising to 1 in 5 for part time workers.

The gap between unemployment and underemployment is at its largest since 2000.

The research was done by Reed in Partnership, which provides employment support.

The report, entitled “The case for an in-work progression service” which says the Government is right to now focus on greater support for those in work not just those who are unemployed.

The Government intends to establish an in-work progression service, making the UK one of the first countries in the world to attempt a large scale programme to support low paid people to increase their earnings.

The report calls for the underemployment rate to be published alongside unemployment figures, alongside additional support with better careers guidance in schools and colleges and support for women returning to work including ‘wraparound’ childcare for older children.

Some of the biggest risk factors affecting underemployment include:

l gender - women (10.7 per cent) are more likely to be looking for additional hours than men (8.4 per cent). This is likely to be as a result of childcare responsibilities – women had lower underemployment in their early twenties, but this increases significantly in their 30s and 40s.

• age - with young people aged 18 (+20 per cent) are four times more likely to want to work more hours than those aged 60 (5 per cent)

• ethnicity - those of Bangladeshi origin (18 per cent) and Black / African / Carribean (14.8 per cent) are most likely to be underemployed; compared to 8.9 per cent for White British.

• degree subject - with those who have studied technology or arts subjects most likely to want to work more hours.

Reed in Partnership’s report is calling for changes to tackle underemployment including:

• Underemployment rates should be published alongside headline unemployment rates to drive the focus of policy making.

• Skills should be better aligned with employment opportunities, with better employer engagement in schools and colleges. This includes providing young people with better careers guidance, and information about the employability potiential of different subjects at an early stage in their education.

• People with particular health conditions are substantially more likely to be underemployed than the population as a whole and an In-Work Support Service should incorporate assistance to manage health conditions to prevent them being a barrier to progression.

More support should be provided to women returning to work after having children as well as supporting lone parents. The Government has, rightly, sought to improve access to childcare for 3-4 year olds, and should consider how access to affordable childcare can be ensured for those with older children.

MD of Reed in Partnership, Martin Fallon, said: “While the reduction in unemployment is a good news story, it can mask the fact that millions of people across the UK would like to work more hours.”