The jobs market in the UK is constantly changing. Back in the 1980s, the main shifts were a change from heavy industry in many parts of the country to service related industries, finance and retail. Since then the pace of change hasn’t slowed, with many more online and digital jobs than ever before.
Compared with other countries in the world, the UK has a high proportion of part time workers. 24% of workers in the UK work less than the full time of 35 or 37.5 hours a week, compared with just 14% in Sweden or 8.8% in South Africa. Only Switzerland, the Netherlands and Australia have more part time workers than the UK. Part time work may be suitable for many, and some people work two or more part-time jobs as an equivalent to full time working. However, there is a growing school of thought that many people who are working part time would in fact prefer to be doing full time hours, and part time work means they lack the time or flexibility to seek more hours.
Self-employment has also been rising steadily in the UK over recent years. In 2008, there were 3.8 million people self-employed in the UK and by 2015, this had risen to 4.6 million. Most of the increase in self-employment is in people who are working part time, so taking on self-employed roles in addition to paid part time or full time employment. Changes in the rules about paying National Insurance for self-employed people over recent years can make taking on self-employment more lucrative than in the past. The rise in self-employment has also been fuelled by the “gig economy” – people combining a full time job with earning extra money on the side working for organisations like Deliveroo or Uber.
The internet has revolutionised the way we all work, and improved communications has led to a huge growth in people working at home, either regularly or on an ad-hoc basis. Statistics show that over 4 million people in the UK are already working from home. Having people work remotely for a couple of days a week has benefits for employers too; it allows them to reduce the size of their office space and can make employees more productive and loyal to the company too.
Zero Hours Contracts
Perhaps the most controversial of the recent changes to the jobs market, there are around 900,000 workers in the UK on zero hours contracts. A zero hours contract is one which doesn’t guarantee a minimum number of hours each week. The idea is that these contracts allow employers to respond to peaks and troughs in demand by getting more people in at busy times, but for the worker, it can mean they’re never sure about when they’re working and what they will be earning that week. Younger workers are more likely to be on a zero hours contract, as are women. Zero hours contracts are rapidly becoming a political issue – so there may be more changes to this way of working in the future.