The rise in underemployment to be probed by the Economy Committee


One impact of the recession has been the increase in people taking on part time jobs or work that does not utilise all the skills they have. What is known as ‘underemployment’ is not well understood. To find out the impact on those ‘underemployed’ and on Scotland’s economy, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee has today launched an inquiry.

Convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Unemployment figures are routinely used as a temperature check on our labour market. Recent unemployment statistics show a drop in those that are unemployed, but evidence suggests that these figures mask a more complicated picture, with underemployment on an upwards trend.

“Little is known about the impact of this trend on our economy and on those that are ‘underemployed.”

“The inquiry will also consider what actions business, the public and third sector and the Scottish Government can take on underemployment without having the unintended consequences of increasing unemployment levels”.

The Committee will focus its inquiry on the following four themes:

Understanding underemployment

  • What has been the impact of the economic downturn since 2008 on underemployment?
  • Which groups are most likely to be affected by underemployment?
  • What is known about the degree of “invisible” underemployment, where people are employed in posts which do not make use of their skill levels?
  • Is underemployment sufficiently understood for policies to be targeted to address it?
  • What are the reasons for a worker being underemployed?
  • How has the capacity for an employer to reduce workers’ hours helped maintain the number of employees and sustained the business in the economic downturn?

The impact of underemployment

  • What are the impacts of underemployment on productivity, tax revenue, welfare costs and pension contributions?
  • How does underemployment impact on skills, earning capacity (now and in the future), future career prospects and health?

The role of the public sector, business and the third sector

  • How can the underemployed be supported in finding full-time employment?
  • Does more need to be done to ensure that the underemployed can access training?
  • Is there a role for businesses and the third sector in supporting the underemployed?

The role of the Scottish Government

  • How can underemployment be addressed without having the unintended consequence of increasing unemployment levels?
  • Is there a need for the Scottish Government to adapt its policies and strategies to address underemployment? What scope does it have to do this?


Underemployment includes all employed persons aged 16 and over who during the reference week were willing to work additional hours, meaning that they:

  • Wanted another job in addition to their current job(s), or
  • Wanted another job with more hours instead of their current job(s), or
  • Wanted to increase the total number of hours worked in their current job(s).

Recent research conducted on behalf of the TUC. A TUC analysis of under-employment (please note this is an external site) across the UK has estimated that the underemployment rate in Scotland has increased from 7.67% in 2008 to 10.95% in 2012.  A similar trend is evident at the UK level

The Committee is asking for written submissions to help them inform their inquiry. The deadline is Wednesday 30th January 2013. Please send written submissions electronically to:

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