Recent data from the Work Foundation at Lancaster University reveals a concerning trend in the UK job market. Over half a million additional individuals transitioned into highly insecure employment in 2023.

This brings the total to 6.8 million people, constituting 21.4% of the active labour market. This shift signifies a rise in low pay, unpredictable hours, and increased vulnerability to job losses due to a lack of rights and protections.

The Work Foundation’s research indicates that individuals in severely insecure work face heightened financial vulnerability, experiencing an annual deficit of over £3,000 compared to those in secure jobs. This financial strain not only impacts individuals but also poses a risk to the effectiveness of the government’s ‘Back to Work’ scheme, designed to reduce the number of individuals opting out of the labour market due to health issues.

Insecurite Employment on the Rise

The UK Insecure Work Index, presented by the think-tank, reveals a concerning surge in severely insecure work, with 500,000 more individuals entering this category since Spring 2022. Concurrently, there has been a decline in secure employment, with 560,000 fewer workers in secure jobs during the same period.

The data also sheds light on the disproportionate impact of insecure work on certain demographic groups:

  • Gender Disparities: Women account for the majority (60%) of those who moved into severely insecure work in 2023, making them 2.3 times more likely to experience this type of employment compared to men.
  • Disabled Workers: A record 1.45 million disabled workers are now in severely insecure work, driven by an increase in the number of disabled individuals of working age. This trend is expected to continue given demographic changes and policy priorities.
  • Ethnic Disparities: More workers from Indian, Black African, and Black Caribbean backgrounds fell into severely insecure work compared to white British workers and other ethnic minorities in 2023.
  • Age Disparities: Workers aged 18-24 are now twice as likely as those aged 50-65 to be in severely insecure work. This rise, coupled with increased youth unemployment, indicates challenges in the job market for young individuals.
  • Sectoral Trends: Spikes in insecure work are particularly notable in wholesale and retail, professional and scientific sectors, and hospitality.

Impact on Workers and Urgent Calls for Change

Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation, expresses concerns about the stress, lack of protections, and low pay that individuals in severely insecure work face. He emphasizes the need for a new approach to improve living standards and calls on the government to address this issue urgently.

The Work Foundation is calling for the government to introduce a comprehensive Employment Bill aimed at substantially reducing insecure work in the UK, and to pause welfare sanctions until the potential impacts of the current Back to Work intervention are understood.