Work-rich and time-poor

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently published some findings on trends in the way we work.

The objective of the paper - Work-rich and work-poor: The three decades of change (by Richard Berthoud) - is to describe, and as far as possible explain, the changing distribution of jobs among families. This matter is approached from three angles:

- Analysing the distribution of employment among individuals over the 30 years between 1974 and 2003, taking account especially of the changing relative positions of men and women, disabled people and older and younger potential workers;

- Comparing the year-by-year changes in group-specific employment probabilities with
the fluctuations in the overall employment rate across the business cycle, to look for underlying trends;

- Assessing the family position of individuals with and without jobs, to show whether they have a partner, and whether the partner has a job.

The research found:

- Around two million adults (aged 20-59) who are in work today would probably not have had a job in the mid-1970s.

- Those whose job prospects have improved most are mothers, especially those with adequate qualifications, good health and a working partner.

- This means that the number of couples who both have a job has increased. They are 'work-rich'.

- On the other hand, there are another two million adults who would have been likely to have had a job thirty years ago, but are now out of work.

- Those whose chances have deteriorated most are disabled men with poor educational qualifications and no working partner.

- There has been a steep increase, too, in the number of non-working adults without a partner, or whose partner does not have a job. The proportion has doubled from 7 per cent to 14 per cent over 30 years. Most of these 'work-poor' families live on social security benefits, and have very low incomes.

- These trends have not mainly been associated with changes in the demand for labour in the economy as a whole, but there are some signs that the underlying growth in the number of non-working families may have levelled off over the past few years.

For a brief summary of the findings click here

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