Unemployment may be falling and more people working, but analysis of labour market trends is increasingly focussing on the particular type of employment that are being created in the post-crash economy.
The TUC have calculated that 44% of the new employment since 2010 has been ‘self-employment.’ (http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/economic-analysis/labour-market/labour-market-and-economic-reports/more-two-five-new) and 40% of this has been ‘part-time.’ Earnings from self-employment fell by a fifth between 2006 and 2010, suggesting that many people have been forced to work for themselves, as a result of being made redundant –the TUC also reports that the number of self-employed people setting up a company has fallen, so rather than a new generation of entrepreneurs, ‘selling goods on line’ or ‘odd-jobbing’ is more likely to be the norm. There’s also been a fall in the number of people paid by employment agencies. Almost two million self-employed workers are over 50 including 400 000 over 65, suggesting self-employment is a way of supplementing meagre income from elsewhere. At 4.5 million, self-employment still only represents 15% of all working, but it’s claimed it will outnumber public sector employees within four years. (www.cityam.com/article/1395711130/self-employed-outnumber-public-sector)
The TUC has been denounced as ‘backward looking’ by PCG an organisation that represents freelance workers. (www.pcg.org.uk) PCG claims that according to its member surveys, increased self- employment, which it argues is a ‘long-term phenomenon’, which now allows much greater control over working life and over the number of hours. (www.brookson.co.uk/news/industry/2014/april/pcg-tells-tuc-self-employment-growth-is-a-structural-change/) But PCG represents mostly self- employed professionals and consultants and its comments don’t reflect the more general polarisation of the workforce between those on regular and growing incomes, contracts and commissions (an increasingly smaller group) while more and more people scrape a living on low pay, part-time, zero hours or nominally declare themselves ‘self-employed’.
Thus even though ‘average’ real wages are now officially increasing, the majority of workers, not just most of the self-employed, are still experiencing pay cuts and there is no real evidence to suggest that this will change in the immediate future.