Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Underemployed' Unseen Face Of Recession

The unseen face of recession has raised its ugly head with the ranks of the 'underemployed' swelling to a staggering 2.8 million. The stark figures blow out of the water hyped-up spin of 'recovery'.

Total unemployment stood at 2.46 million for the three months to December, down 3,000 on the figure for the previous three months, reports the BBC with glee.

Is there anyone living in the real world who would take the latest unemployment figures at face value? The stark figures mask a grim reality.

The Downing Street Job Centre and BBC are still banging the drum with a headline 'UK unemployment falls for second month in a row'.

BBC economics cheerleader, Flanders, offers a gem, trying to lull folk into a false sense of security: "...but we can draw some comfort from the fact that this decline in full-time employment is the smallest since the recession began."

Well that's all right then. Only it isn't.

2.46 million people are on the dole. Long-term unemployment is the highest since 1997. The number of people classed as 'economically inactive' reached a record high of 8.08 million, more than 21 per cent of the working age population, reports a level-headed Telegraph.

The only reason why the UK jobs market can be spun with a healthy glow is because of an increase in the number of people forced to settle for part-time or temporary work.

The Orange Party has warned before that employment has been fuelled by the 'underemployed', with bosses forcing workers over a barrel with low pay and shorter hours in return for a precious job.

Riding on the back of today's official figures, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed on Tuesday there was a rise last year in the number of 'underemployed' workers.

2.8 million who don't make it to the 'official' unemployment figures. Almost a tenth of the workforce scraping a living, working fewer hours because jobs are not there for them.

'Underemployment' has increased sharply during the recession, according to the ONS, but, as the FT highlights, the trend began three years before, rising from 6.6 per cent of the workforce in 2005 to 9.9 per cent in 2009.

"Good news' unemployment figures may kowtow to New Labour's 'recovery' narrative but brings with it a false sense of security. Insecure and low-paid jobs are now the norm at the expense of fully paid up secure work. And that is not good news for workers or the economy.

'Underemployment' confirms what ordinary folk know is happening in the real world as employers brought in short time working, four-day weeks and unpaid leave. Private sector workers have been forced to be 'flexible', accepting fewer work hours and lower pay, instead of enforced layoffs.

But so far the public sector has been cushioned and protected by the backdrop of the general election. Only after the election will the recession finally hit home and people finally know which queue to stand in.

Dole queues will continue to lengthen even with a lifting of recession depression, as employers take off the brakes and increase the hours of existing staff instead of hiring new staff.

Voters are starting to feel edgy and insecure, knowing full well hard times are ahead whoever lands the No 10 job.

Edgy voters turn into an angry and frustrated mob uninterested in carefully crafted nuances of policy and party politicking. An unhappy public worried sick about jobs blames the status quo. And that means the government. Bottling Brown take note.

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