I keep hearing that flexible working is here to stay and I keep getting told that most people choose to work this way. Which is funny, as most of the newly temporary/part time/self-employed that I come across DON’T seem to want to work that way. They are fearful of finding enough hours, and earning enough to meet commitments.
Interim and temporary recruiters that I spoke to before Christmas said that one of their biggest challenges was that their candidates were now mainly looking for permanent work.
And these are people who are earning professional pay rates – not the low-pay part timers who make up today’s underemployed (as blogged here by Michael Carty).
So, do they want to work this way?? I’ve looked at the official figures…
In the most recent ONS Labour Market report the number of temporary workers is 1,620,000. Look further along the line below and you see reasons for temporary working, and under ‘Do not want a permanent job’ the figure is 325,000. That’s right…only 20% of temporary workers DON’T want a permanent job.
Unsurprisingly this has worsened during the recession. If we look at the figures for September 2008 (average of May – July 2008) there were 1,404,000 temporary workers, of which 405,000 didn’t want a permanent job.
So in the 4 years since the market turned we’ve added 216,000 temporary jobs, yet the number of people not wanting a permanent job has fallen by 80,000.
If we compare the comparative figures for part time work then you get a higher proportion who say that they don’t want fulltime work, which is understandable – these numbers will include people who are working parents, carers, semi-retirees and independently wealthy so will include a higher proportion who choose that arrangement.
Even here though there has been a similar change between 2008 and 2012. Now 5,273,000 out of 7,935,000 don’t want full time work whereas in 2008 it was 5,238,000 out of 7,353,000.
So since the market turned we’ve gained 582,000 part time workers…but the number of those not wanting full time work has only increased by 35,000.
This isn’t a surprise to me.
When the recession started I was placing HR interims. I worked with a pool of day rate interims that had chosen to work that way. Few wanted to work that way forever though, some were doing it for a few years – usually until the kids were older, or until they completed another project (often a second business or property development). Most said they wouldn’t rule out a permanent job.
And then the recession started and a whole bunch of newly unemployed HR specialists, at all levels, suddenly had to set themselves up as self-employed. Overnight they went from being an employee to becoming their own sales manager, marketing manager, accounts manager, credit control manager, procurement manager and IT manager.
As FlipChartRick says, self-employment isn’t for everyone.
So flexible working may be inevitable, and I happen to believe it is, and we all know a few people who now work that way – but that doesn’t mean that they all want to or can afford to.