The Independent’s Sean O’Grady has written a good blog posting about underemployment.
He thinks that the rise in underemployment (that is, people working less than they want to) is going to create a much more unequal society: “Those who have traditional full time secure jobs with a pension are increasingly a blessed minority – the rest of the nation is scrabbling away trying to get work where and when they can, with not even paid holidays, let alone a final salary pension scheme.“
I think he makes an error in dividing the country into those two groups, though.
He makes it sound like those with secure jobs are in that category forever. In reality, however, very few people are allowed to stay in one job forever, at least in the private sector. Five, ten or perhaps fifteen years, and then redundancy looms.
Interestingly, banks still treats a “secure” job as being secure when it comes to getting a mortgage, so people will try to get a mortgage during those years they have a “real” job, given that it’s almost impossible to get one if you don’t have one.
So to return to O’Grady’s divided society: I think the dividing line will be between those who either have a really secure job (such a schoolteachers) or have made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives without working again, and those whose working lives will be a patchwork of studies, full-time jobs, part-time jobs, unemployment and self-employment, with the disastrous consequences for savings and pensions that this is likely to entail.