Part-time work: Women get the raw end of a raw deal

Behind the ‘good news’ of falling unemployment, new TUC analysis points to a worrying trend of more and more women moving, without choice, into low-paid, part-time jobs that don’t pay a living wage. Back in January, we reported on the 1.3 million underemployed people forced to take the insecure, part-time work that so characterises the UK’s fragile, low-pay recovery. Now, TUC analysis of the ONS Labour Force Survey reveals that women in particular are getting the raw end of a raw deal:

  • 54% of women’s net employment growth in 2014 was in low-paid, part-time work.
  • There are currently 300,000 more women working part-time who want a full-time job than there were in 2007.
  • the UK now has the third lowest proportion of women in full-time employment amongst OECD nations.

Gaenor Bagley of Price Waterhouse Coopers (who provided the OECD analysis), says that despite the perception that flexible working helps women,

“[our] research suggests that it is still holding back women’s career progression.”

The TUC research also found that women working part-time were typically employed on much lower rates of pay – for example, as little as £6.70/hr for cleaners, which is a fraction over the statutory minimum wage and far below a living wage. In 2014, women were also more likely to move into self-employed jobs than men – 88% of net female jobs growth last year was in part-time self-employment. The self-employed have very few of the statutory rights – such as sick pay and annual leave – enjoyed by employees. The quid pro quo for this loss of security should be better pay, but that’s clearly not happening. Instead, employers are getting cheap, flexible labour without any of the responsibilities. As the TUC's Frances O’Grady said:

“Unless we create better-paid part-time and flexible work opportunities, far too few women will see any real benefit from the recovery.”

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