Young people — including graduates — are among those worst hit by the new wave of ‘underemployment’ sweeping the UK, new figures have shown. This means that while they have managed to find some work (working part-time, doing shifts or odd bits of freelance work), they are not doing anywhere near as many hours of paid work as they would like.

One in five working young people wants to get out of part-time work and those in full-time positions are not working enough hours, according to the Trade Union Congress, which have called it “alarming” and “a criminal waste of talent and skills.” The 16-24 age group is the category where underemployment is at it highest, with 13% of young women underemployed, and 10% of young men.

This seems to fit with what Graduate Fog’s users have been telling us for months. Many of you say you are doing ‘bits and pieces’ of freelance work, plus a few shifts here and there at your local pub or coffee shop. But — as you are discovering — your earnings from several small jobs doesn’t add up to a salary from one proper one.

Underemployment has grown by 42% since the recession in 2008 and graduates are making up a large proportion of the overall 3.3 million who are now part of this phenomenon. The TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said underemployment among young people was a growing concern:

“It is alarming just how few young people today are able to find a job working enough hours. This is a criminal waste of the talent and skills they have — all because of a crisis they didn’t cause.”

Just last week, Graduate Fog reported on the rise of the so-called ‘zero-hours’ contract, where employers demand that their young staff are available for shifts at short notice — but are under no obligation to give them any hours at all. But the outgoing employment minister Chris Grayling appeared to disagree, dismissing the figures by saying:

“Being in some form of employment is better than being out of work. It is important that people are taking those first steps into employment through part-time work or jobs in different sectors as it provides vital experience and skills that employers will look for when the economy improves.

“Over the past few months the rise in full-time work has outstripped that of part time and unemployment has continued to fall.”

Critics have suggested that the government has failed to grasp the true nature of the unemployment crisis unfolding in the UK. Yes, unemployment looks like it has fallen (on paper), but that only tells part of the story. As these latest figures suggest, just because a young person is ’employed’, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are flourishing. Graduate Fog thinks young people need full-time, permanent, paid jobs. Not lots of little bits and pieces that add up to far less than the sum of their parts.

Are you doing several little jobs, when you’d prefer to have one proper one? How much are you earning — and how much would you like to earn? Are you making enough to support yourself — or are you still taking hand-outs from your mum and dad?

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