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Youth employment and the rise of the ‘zero hours’ contract

by on May 17, 2013

As reported here in The Telegraph, the latest ONS figures show a rise in the number of British workers employed on ‘zero hours’ contracts.

These started out primarily in the high street in sectors such as fast food and retail; they allow employers to change each week the shifts of staff employed on these terms. Staff are essentially on standby and can be deployed according to demand; the figures show a seasonal pattern with contracts rising in the run up to Christmas and declining over the summer months.

According to this BBC item, however, a record number of young people are now on ‘zero hours’ contracts at work. The ONS figures show that the number of 16-24-year-olds on ‘zero hours’ contracts rose from 35,000 in 2008 to 76,000 in 2012. Younger workers are far more likely to be given this type of contract with one in every three ‘zero hours’ employees now under the age of 25.

As 22 year old Jessica, quoted in the piece, says: “You can’t live without worrying if you can pay your rent. It’s all right for students or people who live at home but if you have to support yourself then you need security and a set wage every month.”

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