[Image: Eoin Clarke on Twitter.]

[Image: Eoin Clarke on Twitter.]

The increase in the number of people on zero-hours contracts (on This Blog we call them ‘Camerons‘) is big news today, with many outlets quoting the increase to 903,000 as a 21 per cent rise since this time last year, when 747,000 were employed in this way.

But if you look at the six-monthly figures, you’ll see that the number of people on these contracts is actually accelerating.

Figures for June last year showed 747,000 zero-hours employees. By December, this had risen to 803,000 – an increase of seven per cent.

From 803,000, the number rose again to 901,000 by June this year, an increase of 12 per cent on the December figure – nearly double the size of the previous six-month increase.

Ah, but wait. Apparently the six-month figures aren’t comparable because the use of such contracts is affected by the time of year. That might be persuasive if the number had dropped at any point but it hasn’t. Saying the increase is slower in the latter half of a calendar year because of seasonal conditions doesn’t alter the fact that an increase has still happened.

It has been said that zero-hours contracts are handy for students or for people who have retired from full-time work, because of the flexibility in working hours that they offer.

Do you honestly think that nearly a million jobs are being taken up by students and the retired?

Nor do I.

And the number of people in these jobs belies the total number of contracts available.

In January 2015, This Blog reported 1,400,000 such jobs were on the market. By November last year, this had risen to 1.7 million. But the ONS has (conveniently?) suffered a “data collection” problem and cannot yet publish the number of contracts currently available.

So what do you think? It’s bound to be more than two million, I reckon.

Labour (or at least that part of Labour that remains interested in doing its job) is taking advantage of the opportunity to embarrass Theresa May’s Tories.

“The scale of the crisis of insecure work under the Tories is getting worse with every passing year,” said Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams.

“Before the 2015 election the Tories promised to act on zero-hours contracts, but these numbers show that was nothing more than words.”

But it’s worse than that. She added that cuts to Universal Credit will result in 2.5 million working families being an average of £2,100 worse off, hitting those in insecure, low-paid work the hardest. And people on zero-hours contracts who are reliant on social security support are being subjected to ‘in-work conditionality’ and unfairly sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions.

If this is what Tories call acting on zero-hour contracts, they will have overrun the entire economy by 2020.


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