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Not enough ‘decent jobs’ – which age group is most affected?

by on December 16, 2014

So much for trying to post ‘good news’ stories in the run-up to Christmas.

This is the TUC’s Decent Jobs Week in which they draw attention to those who work in low paid, insecure jobs, including those (apparently over one million) who are on zero-hours contracts, those working via agencies or as casual workers who may not be able to access on important employment rights and benefits. So, good news that the TUC is tackling this issue.

But not so good news for those in such jobs. One headline finding is that those on zero hours contracts earn nearly £300 less per week than permanent workers. Women and younger workers are said to be particularly affected by the casualisation of work.

The TUC Report (available from a link on this page) is entitled ‘The Decent Jobs Deficit: The Human Cost of Zero-Hours Working in the UK’ examines the concepts of ‘flexibility’ and ‘choice’ (both widely used in the discourses of employment) as well as individual-level effects of the casualisation of the workforce. Sections of the report specifically looks at these issues with regard to women and younger workers.

The report contain a table which gives the distribution of permanent, zero-hour contract, agency and temporary workers by age, compared with the working age population, 2014. Data is taken from the Labour Force Survey. One observation relates to how the ‘working age population’ is defined. It now ranges from ’16-19 years’ to those ’70+ years’, surely a change from previous statistics which stopped counting those aged over 65 in relation to work.

With regard to younger workers, the Report rehearses the (employer’s) argument that ‘agency working and zero-hours contracts offer young workers welcome job experience and a valuable stepping stone into more permanent employment‘. It points out, however, that research commissioned by the UK Commission for Education and
Skills suggests temporary working is not always a positive choice for workers and that for young workers in particular, working on a flexible contract was often the only available option. Most workers aged 20-29 said they were only doing zero hours or other temporary/agency work because they couldn’t find a permanent job.

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