Around a tenth of all workers wanted to work more hours, according to the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), including just under a quarter of those currently working part-time.
This represents a 1m – or 47.3 per cent – rise in underemployment since the height of the financial crisis in 2008.
However, the ONS said the increase came mainly during the depths of the recession in 2008 and 2009 – when employment was also falling – not in the period since then where the UK has enjoyed so much job growth.
But commentators still saw the data as extra evidence highlighting the sluggishness of the UK’s recovery, even in the labour market. “Taking any job available, even if it meant lower pay and fewer hours, was a pragmatic response to the recession,” said Trades Union Congress boss Brendan Barber. “The fact that the number of underemployed people continues to grow shows just how weak our recovery is, and how fragile the labour market remains.”
Underemployment was highest amongst young people, with 21.7 per cent of workers aged 16 to 24 wishing they had more work, compared to 9.7 per cent of 25-34 year olds, 9.6 per cent of 35-49 year olds eight per cent of 50-64 year olds and 4.2 per cent of over 65s. And this age-axis held up even after controlling for the fact that 42 per cent of 16-24 year olds work part time, versus 28 per cent of all age groups.
The data also revealed that underemployment hit hourly wages – by £3.32 an hour on average – though this information was affected by the fact that part-timers both earn lower wages and report higher rates of underemployment.