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New Work Foundation Index reveals UK workers

image: Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation
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Credit: Labor Foundation

A new in-depth analysis of UK labor market data reveals that women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and young workers have been consistently trapped in precarious jobs over the past two decades.

The Work Foundation, a leading think tank dedicated to improving work in the UK, today launches its new ‘UK Precarious Work Index’ which details the prevalence of perceived job insecurity by workers across the UK and reveals how this insecurity has changed over the past two decades.

Using ONS labor market data from 2000 to 2021, the Work Foundation Index focuses on three things that can constitute job insecurity: employment contracts, personal finances and access to workers’ rights .

Findings Reveal Four Groups of Workers Consistently Trapped in the Most Severe Category of Job Insecurity Over the Past Twenty Yearswhich affected 20-25% of workers each year on average and about 6.2 million employees last year:

  • young workers who are two and a half times more likely to have a very precarious job than those in the middle of working life (43% of 16-24 year olds compared to 17% of 25-65 year olds)
  • Women who are 10% more likely to be in highly precarious employment than men (25% vs. 15%)
  • Ethnic minority workers are more likely to be in severely precarious employment than white workers (24% vs. 19%). Men from ethnic minorities are 10% more likely to have very precarious work than white men (23% vs. 13%)
  • Disabled workers who are 6% more likely to suffer from severely precarious work, compared to non-disabled workers (25% vs. 19%).

The data also reveals that the sectors most exposed to serious job insecurity are hospitality, services and agriculturewho see one in three workers affected, compared to one in five nationally.

Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, said: “At a time of crisis in the cost of living, people in precarious and poorly paid jobs are among the groups most at risk. Wages have stagnated and although millions more people may be employed, the quality and security of the jobs they have often mean they are unable to make ends meet.

Labor market data collected during the pandemic shows that those in severely precarious employment face the greatest risks in a crisis. During Covid-19, these workers were at greater risk of losing their jobs, were ten times more likely to receive no sick pay, were more likely to lose support through furloughs or other programs.

“Our analysis shows that job insecurity affects some groups more than others – particularly if you are a young person, a working woman, from an ethnic minority or have a disability, you are more likely to experience severe job insecurity,” Harrison continues. “With the Bank of England predicting that inflation could potentially hit 10% by the end of 2022, workers could face the biggest real pay cut we have seen in generations.”

Former Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Rt Hon. Alan Milburn said: “The challenges faced by millions of British families due to job insecurity, low pay and a lack of full-time work should not be underestimated. As the country faces the worst cost of living crisis in living memory, it is clear that action is more urgent.

“Social mobility has stagnated in recent decades and the UK Precarious Work Index confirms that highly precarious work significantly reduces the chances of escaping poverty. It is a stark reminder of the need to focus on providing access to safer, better paid and better jobs if we are truly to improve the UK.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady hailed the UK Precarious Work Index. She says“Across the country, millions of people are trapped in jobs with extremely unpredictable hours, low pay and limited rights.

“For years, workers have been promised improved rights and protections. But ministers have now shelved the Jobs Bill, which they say would help make Britain the best place in the world to work.

“Instead of tackling precarious work, ministers sat back and let it thrive. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, it is more important than ever for the government to crack down on low-paying precarious work.

“The time for excuses is over. We need government action to strengthen workers’ rights and end exploitative practices like zero hour contracts.

Lord Gavin Barwell, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister (2017-19) said: “Today, for the first time ever, we have fewer unemployed than vacancies. But, while low unemployment is a success story in the UK, the government and employers now face two challenges. Firstly , how do we encourage people to come back to the market to meet the demand for labor and secondly, how can we improve the security of these jobs and thus level the country?

“This timely report provides recommendations on what the government can do to improve safety while retaining the benefits of the UK’s current approach. The government is looking at ways to use the regulatory freedom we currently enjoy outside the EU: to build on the success of the UK economy in creating jobs by making sure those jobs are secure in the broadest sense would be a great place to start.”

Ben Harrison adds: “In the immediate term, the Chancellor must increase Universal Credit in line with expected inflation to ensure that support through this cost of living crisis targets people in low-paying and precarious jobs.

“And although the jobs bills that could have solved many of these problems appear to have been abandoned, the fact remains that the government cannot hope to achieve its ambition to level the country without raising standards. and increase the number of better quality jobs. , a supply of better paid and more secure jobs.

The launch of the UK Precarious Work Index is the benchmark for the Work Foundation’s precarious work research program, which aims to produce timely information on precarious work in the UK in the future.

The UK Insecure Work Index report is published and available in full on The Work Foundation’s website on 26 May 2022:


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