Underemployment over time

Date 1 September 2017
Date updated 6 October 2017

Underemployment over time

What does this chart show?

This graph shows the proportion of the working-age population who are unemployed, economically inactive but who would like to work, and working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job. This represents those who are not working ‘enough’ and who would like to work more. In 2016, 800,000 people, 13.6% of the working-age population, were underemployed. The largest group within this was the economically inactive who want to work. The underemployment rate has fallen for four consecutive years since its high of 17.3% (980,000) in 2012.

The unemployment rate was 5.4% in 2004, and fluctuated around this level until 2009 when it increased to 7% and remained high until 2012 when it was 7.1% (400,000). Since then it has fallen every year until its lowest rate of 4.5% (270,000) in 2016. This has been the largest contribution to falling underemployment.

The proportion of the working-age population who are inactive but wanting work remained fairly stable from 2004 to 2014 with high points in 2007 and 2012 (6.9% and 6.7% respectively). Between 2014 and 2015 it fell 0.5 percentage points to 5.6%, its lowest level since 2014. In 2016 it remained at 5.6% (330,000).

The proportion of the working-age population who are working part-time but who would like full-time work has increased steadily from 2004 when it was 1.4% (70,000) until 2011 when it was 3.5% (200,000). Since 2011 the proportion has been 3.5% in every year apart from 2013 when it was 3.9%. In 2016 it was also 3.5% – 200,000 people. Unlike the other two measures which make up underemployment, this measure has not started to fall in the years after the recession and remains higher than in 2004.