A quarter of UK employees are now working part-time, according to new findings – and it could actually benefit individuals and the economy.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this equates to 8 million part-time workers, up from 5.8 million people in 2018.
And in November, social enterprise Timewise said the number of people wanting to work part-time exceeded even the number of part-time jobs available, 4:1.
So what is behind this increase in the number of people wanting more part-time work? After all, it can often mean lower salaries and less career progression.
Well, with the cost of living crisis and double-digit inflation, a day’s pay isn’t going as far as it used to, which means many parents are opting to look after their own their children as much as possible rather than paying rising childcare costs.
Some workplaces have also tried to encourage people to return to the office, but after years of remote working due to Covid and a wave of transport problems (see: train and bus strikes), workers are not are not so enthusiastic.
And that’s before you even look at the housing market.
House prices rose by £39,000 between July 2021 and July 2022, while the average salary for full-time workers in the UK is £33,000 – so there is little incentive for people to work full time when everything seems so out of reach in terms of pricing.
Meanwhile, the government is trying to push people back into full-time work, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt launching an inquiry into why so many have left the workforce since Covid (otherwise known as the Great Resignation ).
As the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has pointed out, tighter benefit rules mean more people are forced to look for work, and so they opt for part-time work instead.
The government’s labor concerns come amid fears over Britain’s economy.
The UK is the only major economy to contract in 2023 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast for the year ahead. It stagnated at the end of 2022, which means we just managed to avoid falling into a recession.
But offering more part-time work could actually benefit businesses and individuals alike.
And although the government is trying to push people back into full-time work, UK research shows part-time work could help boost economic growth – and so more flexible roles should be introduced.
Findings released in January by Cranfield University’s School of Management suggest companies should see the benefits of part-time work after flexible leave during the pandemic.
Professor Clare Kelliher, author of the research summary, explained: “Investigating part-time work and encouraging its widespread use, where appropriate, could bring many millions of people currently excluded from work back into the labor market and stimulate the economy at a time when it is desperately needed.”
As Jo Swinson – former Lib Dem leader and former business minister under David Cameron – told Forbes: “Employees and employers can see that workplace practices and culture are changing rapidly as a result of the pandemic experience.
“One-size-fits-all working models no longer make sense.”