'Underemployed' numbers rising in the Midlands

James Harrison Mr Harrison said finding a full-time job is easier said than done

"I'd love to have a permanent job with a company van and not to have to worry about the cost of petrol to and from a job.

"Last year, I spent in excess of £100 per week to get to work and home just in petrol. Then there's full rent and council tax, then food. There's nothing left after. And I get £13 an hour when in work; how others survive on temporary work I don't know."

This, in his own words, is the story of James Harrison, an electrician from Shard End in Birmingham. The problem for him and many thousands of others is that finding a full-time job is easier said than done.

According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, Birmingham's employment rate of 57.7% is the lowest in the UK.

The ONS says 116,000 people in the West Midlands work part-time who would like permanent full-time jobs (up from 104,000 in the year to March 2010).

ONS reports a further 48,000 people are in temporary jobs because they cannot find permanent work. Put it all together and you find 167,000 people in the West Midlands are doing significantly less work than they want to.

Add to that the latest ONS regional unemployment figure of 267,000 and we can see that 434,000 West Midlanders are either underemployed or unemployed altogether.

'For hard working people'

Crunching these numbers inevitably takes some of the shine off the remarks by David Cameron in one of my recent party leader interviews. He said 37,000 new jobs had been created in our region alone over the past three years.

The keynote theme of the Conservative Party Conference has become something of a mantra for Tory politicians these days: no sound-bite is complete, it seems, unless they give it a mention.

Conservative Party Conference logo Birmingham's employment rate of 57.7% is the lowest in the UK

The West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre is her party's spokesman on employment in the European Parliament.

Celebrating last month's reduction in the number of people eligible claiming the main unemployment benefit, she said: "It is great news that the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance is falling in the West Midlands.

"British business is rising to the challenge of creating jobs and Conservatives are determined to ensure that all hard working people benefit from the recovery."

The problem for people like James Harrison is that many of those would-be "hard working people" are not working hard enough.

Anthea McIntyre will be with me in the Sunday Politics Midlands studio this week, along with the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, Steve McCabe.

And I hope you will join us too, from the slightly later time of 11.15 on Sunday on BBC One Midlands.

Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    @20 KURGANCO
    The cost of living has more than doubled since 1988, increasing perhaps as much as 2.5 times, depending how you measure it. Over the same period, household incomes for every decile of the final income distribution have increased by more than 2.7 times... oh, apart from the top 10%, which only managed 2.69. The bottom 30% all managed more than 3.25.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    High immigration low wages high house prices & high rents.
    What it all adds up to is a dramatic fall in the standard of living for "hard working people" in Britain. An enormous gulf is opening between the have lots & the have nots. That is the way this government wants to keep it. In the 60's & 70's this country was at the mercy of the unions.

    Now the pendulum has now swung to far the other way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    @12 Alan "The title of this article implies that rising underemployment also applies to the East Midlands.
    Is that the case?"

    Yes. The figures for the East Midlands are 101,000 part-time who cannot find full-time, up from 74,000, and 55,000 temporary who cannot find permanent, up from 35,000. So that's 156,000 "underemployed", up from 109,000.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    i was told at an early age never trust a politician. How do expect a Eaton politician (pleb) to know about our needs?? Silver spoon comes to mind with all the three parties. As I have looked into all parties concerned NOT one has mentioned PENSIONERS in there hurry to out do each our, BUT there is a party out there (out side the three) who is listening UKIP they mentioned pensioners

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Employment figures, like everything else, will be manipulated to suit the party publicising them. The government of the day will say things are greatly improving, the opposition will say that's a lie and quality of life will only improve if you vote for us. In the real world everything is getting worse unless you're a champagne socialist or a public school educated millionaire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    13Politicalapathy#....You won't get improving living standards until you have a sound economy that shows constant and consistent growth.At last after the world-wide crash and mess left here by Labour;we are seeing the economy start to improve and at faster rates than the rest of the developed countries.Living standards/employment will not come before economic growth.Labour cant talk growth now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Underemployed figures should be published alongside, unemployed stats, I know quiy=te a few people put on shorter working week and this has been for a long time now, it's not getting better. Politicians think they can pull the wool over our eyes, but the sheeoples are waking up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    There are no plans to set the climate for a return to full-time employment for the bulk of the population
    The EU gets ever bigger, markets are global, and we keep open borders
    The government should just admit that there are not enough jobs and all they can do is manage the decline
    So the under employed should enjoy their free time, rather than be made to feel guilty about it
    It`s all engineered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Sadly this article could be written about most areas in the UK apart from those small pockets that have the highest income per head of population. The negative effects of the last 5 years are still with us and although figures on unemployment look good? Living standards across the UK have fallen considerably.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The title of this article implies that rising underemployment also applies to the East Midlands.
    Is that the case?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Become an estate agent, that’s an up and coming job market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    All the older large factories are gone in most towns. Very large numbers of small one-to-five person business, doing kitchens / home renovation / automotive. Retail is huge selling foreign-made things. Then there are the racketeers in the city. No real wealth is being created, but the government still prints coinage.. Countries compete to lower their currency to create growth, It isn't working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Unemployed are still shunted onto benefits not counted as unemployed: Bingo: unemployment figures go down! Great for politicians on the up. About ten million people of working age are unemployed. With a million people coming into the country a year, school leavers can look forward to a lifetime of unemployment. Power cuts next. (I was going to say last person in turn off the lights but...)

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I work in a school, paid £6.42 an hour (increased from £6.30 in september) term time only meaning I work 39 weeks a year and am paid for 3.5 weeks holiday. in total this means I have 9.5 weeks unpaid holiday a year.

    this is as IT support, private sector I would be earning at least £20,000 a year instead of the current £10,500 before deductions, but I cannot find a better paid job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    With 55% of people in state employment (I would hesitate to call it 'work' ), 50% or more taxes, 80% of fuel cost being tax, zero-hours work, 40% of workers on short term contracts, the country is broken. Catastrophe is next (See: Sweden). Not to worry, there are an extra million people coming into the country every year who are looking for jobs too, and they are willing to work for 50p/hr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Much of the commercial developments we see are for retail; low wage, part time, needing support from subsidised housing and benefits.
    Our benefits discouraged labour mobility here, so we opened our borders instead to the job hungry and desperate from abroad.
    Too many people, not enough homes or jobs for them to live comfortably.
    And now population growth's gone mad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    This situation will become a political nightmare for the coalition under universal credit when people will be penalised for being under employed. There are lots of business start ups, but how many are glorified odd-job businesses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Of course the continual mantra for hardworking people sounds good for a soundbite at the tory conference, just like the repeated lie about patients drinking from flower vases it is guarenteed to get applause from the tory sheeple, however what it really means is stuff the sick needy and disabled. The esa is a disaster ATOS consider everyone fit to work it expires after 1 Appeals over 1 year now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The vast numbers of underemployed includes young "hungry" workers struggling to met the mortgage feed the kids etc.

    But the long term problem is the over 50's who are being denied the opportunity to "save" pressed by kids unable to leave home and parents needing care the flexible working looks ok; but will result in millions having an impoverished retirement.

    Age discrimination is real

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Hopefully as the economy improves, more jobs will convert to full-time.

    But I have a relative who has been part-time in the public sector for a few years. As the work increases he is given overtime virtually every week.. His employer repeatedly refuses to make the post full-time. This causes him problems getting a mortgage and for the benefits (pension/sickpay/holidays).


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