THE ‘improved’ unemployment figures are a mask for a country that is working harder, and getting poorer, with more than 4.5 million people now regarded as ‘self-employed’!
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that UK registered unemployment fell by 121,000 to 2.12 million in the three months to May, with the official unemployment rate down slightly to 6.5% from 6.6% in the three months to April.
The number of people successfully claiming jobseeker’s allowance last month fell by 36,300 to 1.04 million, the ONS reported, adding that now more than 4.5 million people are ‘self-employed’, the highest since records began in 1992.
Pay was up just 0.7% on the previous year, the lowest growth rate since records began in 2001, while the consumer prices index (CPI) inflation rate rose in June to 1.9% from 1.5% a month earlier, and the RPI index rose by 2.6% meaning that pay is collapsing further and further behind inflation.
Average earnings figures exclude the UK’s 4.5 million ‘self-employed’, and the Resolution Foundation pointed out yesterday that if they were included ‘the squeeze on wages since 2008 would be more than 20 per cent deeper than the official figures suggest’.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Behind these figures is a story of rising insecurity as self-employment soars to record levels while the assault on living standards continues as wages lag behind inflation.
‘For many any sense of an economic recovery is simply passing them by as this government fosters a low-paid, low-skilled economy built on the back of precarious employment. We must always remember that the growing number of self-employed have no rights or protections, let alone a stable income.
‘With wage growth at its lowest rate since 2001, while inflation continues to vastly outstrip wage rates, ordinary people are working harder and getting poorer.’
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘The reality is that today’s workforce is increasingly made up of workers on casual and zero-hours contracts, and those who are termed self-employed but struggling to make a living.
‘The lack of growth in earnings is being felt keenly by embattled public sector workers. They have endured four years of job uncertainty and decreasing wages and are certainly not feeling the benefits of the so-called economic recovery.’
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘Workers have seen their wages fall behind the cost of living for the last five years and in the civil service this means cuts in income of around 20%.
‘More than a million public servants were on strike last week to say they need a pay rise but there is an urgent need for this across the economy.’
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘If all the recovery can deliver is low-paid, low-productivity jobs – many of which don’t offer enough hours to get by – then it will pass most working people by and Britain’s long-term economic prospects will be seriously diminished.’