If the Government is to achieve its aim of securing full employment, it will have to tackle under-employment.
That is the conclusion reached by the Resolution Foundation think tank, which argues that helping people who have jobs but who want more hours (the under-employed) will free more part-time hours for those who are currently economically inactive (the unemployed).
Such an approach will, the Foundation argues, have far more of an impact in terms of jobs growth than just reducing unemployment.
Its research shows that the economically inactive (many of whom have health problems or caring responsibilities) have a clear preference for part-time and flexible work.
However, the think tank concedes that enabling those who are inactive to start work is a significant challenge, with figures showing that just 4% move into employment over a three-month period, compared to some 25% of people who are unemployed.
Economically inactive citizens are also less likely to be actively engaging with employment support providers or to be subject to benefit conditionality.
However, by finding another five million hours for the UK’s under-employed workers, the Government would, the Foundation points out, effectively open up the sort of part-time roles that suit many people who are currently economically inactive.
According to Senior Policy Analyst Laura Gardiner: "The good news is that the UK’s flexible labour market provides plenty of part-time opportunities. The bad news is that far too many of those jobs are already taken by people who would prefer to work more hours elsewhere."