When entering government Chancellor George Osborne insisted the cull in public sector employment the Coalition was scheduling, would be more than compensated by the increase in private sector jobs. In many ways Osborne has been true to his word –in the run up to his Conservative Party Conference speech he made much of the fact that over a million new private sector jobs had been created. Even if we allow for the disappearance of up to 600 000 in the public sector, this still gives us an overall gain. In fact at 29.56 million, the number of people in work is almost as high as the pre-recession figure in 2008.
If more people are working, many are not doing the work they want, or the hours they need. The figures show a net increase of only 250 000 full-time jobs and the number of people working part-time because they can’t find a full-time position has increased by over 300 000 in the last two years –bringing the total to 1.24 million, 18% of all part-time workers. 40% of 1.6 million on temporary contracts (60 000 more than two years ago) are also in this category.
ONS figures do show a steady increase in the number senior managerial jobs in the last two years, though a fall in the number of professionals, but almost a 5% rise in technical or ‘para-professional’ work –however para-professional work is often poorly paid, with the 200 000 ‘teaching assistants’ employed in schools usually earning half what the teachers they work alongside receive. The statistics also indicate employment in ‘elementary occupations’ has grown since 2010 –with a particular increase in part-time work.
The fact that new jobs created are also likely to be poorly paid is reflected in the statistics for earnings. Average total pay was £471 per week in July 2012 – a 1.5 per cent increase on a year earlier (1.8% in the private sector, but still lower than the rate of inflation). As this figure is distorted by ‘bonuses’ paid to the few, pay for the majority has barely increased at all.
Finally, even if more people are working, more remain unemployed than two years ago, an increase of 93 000 using the broader Labour Force Survey measurement, but over 100 000 based on the ‘claimant count’ –the result of changes in demographic factors as well as a decline in the number of people ‘economically inactive.’ Rather than ‘one nation working hard together’ as Osborne’s Conference speech claimed; the figures reflect increased fragmentation of the labour market, a general lowering of living standards and a worsening of employment conditions.