Lowest-paid workers hit hardest by lack of jobs

by - 12th December 2011, 7.30 BST

If they become unemployed, low-paid workers such as cleaners, catering assistants and machine operators are most likely to be on the dole for more than six months, according to a new TUC analysis published today ahead of the latest unemployment statistics this week.

The TUC analysis shows that as unemployment rises and the number of job vacancies fall, a growing proportion of unemployed people are staying on the dole for over six months, and this is affecting low-paid workers more than others.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The risk of long-term unemployment is a huge concern to the millions of people currently out of work as it can permanently scar their career prospects.

“And while the majority of unemployed people are still able to come off the dole within six months, an increasing number of previously low paid workers are getting stuck on the dole for at least six months and sometimes for over a year.

“The government must treat long-term unemployment as its top priority. Not only is it a personal tragedy for those who get stuck on the dole, it carries wider social and economic risk too.

“Providing help after 12 months on the dole is simply too late for many people struggling to get back into work. Ministers should show they’re taking the unemployment crisis seriously by giving more support to the increasing number of people on the dole for six months or more.”

The number of dole claimants out of work for over six months has increased by around a third since the start of the recession, rising from 29 per cent in April 2008 to 40 per cent in October 2011. Currently around one in six dole claimants have now been out of work for over a year.

The risk of becoming long-term unemployed has increased most for machine operators, with the number of long-term dole claimants rising from 29 per cent before the recession to 45 per cent in October this year. People from elementary occupations – which includes jobs like cleaners, catering assistants and security guards – have had the second sharpest increase, with 46 per cent of them now having been on the dole for at least six months.

Dole claimants from professional occupations have seen barely any change in the length of time they are spending out of work, with the proportion of those on the dole who have been unemployed over six months falling slightly since the recession to 29 per cent.

Before the recession the risk of long-term unemployment did not vary greatly between occupations, with one in four (25 per cent) unemployed managers  on the dole for over six months, compared to one in three (31 per cent) of those from elementary occupations.

However, this gap has grown over the recession and lower-paid occupations are now experiencing the sharpest rise in the risk of long-term unemployment, says the TUC.

Out of work people from lower paid occupations such as cleaners, machine operators and sales assistants have a far greater risk of becoming long-term unemployed than those from higher-paid occupations such as managers, senior officials and professional occupations such as engineers, teachers and solicitors.

The TUC is particularly concerned about rising long-term unemployment as it can permanently scar people’s job prospects, both through long spells of unemployment and because they often have to work below their skill level.

The TUC is calling on the government to provide greater support for those out of work for six months or more as it believes the current policy of only providing help after 12 months could come too late for many.

With Wednesday’s unemployment figures likely to show another rise in unemployment, the TUC is launching an economy tracker to monitor how unemployment, job vacancies, involuntary part-time work, wages and a host of other economic variables have fared since the recession. The tracker is available here