In praise of … the full time job

It was employment stats day yesterday, so a succession of government MPs stood up and parroted the phrase ‘2 million more private sector jobs’, while pretending to ask the Prime Minister a question. Frazer Nelson wrote another piece about the jobs miracle and Michael O’Connor poked holes in it.

Of course, anyone who has been watching will know that around 40 percent of the jobs created since the Coalition took over are self-employed. Although the UK has now recovered its loss of GDP from the recession, the number of full-time employed jobs is still below its pre recession peak.


Chart: Michael O’Connor based on ONS figures

The good news is that this month’s employment rise is largely due to an increase in the number of full-time jobs. We shouldn’t read too much into this, swallows and summers and all that, but it is encouraging.


Chart: Michael O’Connor based on ONS figures

Why are full-time employed jobs so important? Shouldn’t we be aspiring to be autonomous netizens, empowered to remodel our portfolio careers within the flexible labour market? Isn’t the job an outmoded concept? Full-time employment, like offices, is just so square daddio.

At least, that’s what my Twitter stream seems to keep telling me.

The truth is, though, that full-time employment is a measure of an economy’s wealth and strength. A couple of years ago, Gallup developed a metric called Payroll to Population (P2P). It measures the percentage of the population aged over 15 who work for an employer for more than 30 hours a week. They found, perhaps not surprisingly, a strong relationship between P2P and per capita GDP.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 16.03.05

Furthermore, says Gallup’s chairman, according to his firm’s research, what people around the world wanted most was a good job:

Through our World Poll, Gallup learned that what everyone wants the most is a good job. This is the will of the world, and nothing outranks it: not the desire for family, peace, religion, or anything else.

He expands the theme in this article:

The biggest problem facing the world is an inadequate supply of good jobs. Every leader in every institution and organization must consider this in every decision he or she makes every day. The great global dream is now focused on having a good job. If you are the best in the world at something other than creating strategies and policies aimed at the great global dream, your leadership now has less value. Job creation is the new currency of all world leaders. The new most important social value in the world no longer relates to human rights, the environment, abortion, religion, gay marriage, women’s issues, or equality. The No. 1 social value in the world is my job.

Some might take issue with him on that last bit but those countries with high levels of full-time employment are, for the most part, good on all the other stuff too.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 16.21.48

Full-time employment is both a symptom and a cause of affluence. Full-time jobs are created where companies are prepared to commit to investment in their people. They offer a degree of security which makes people feel more confident about spending. The precariousness of other forms of employment does the opposite.

Hipster commentators scorn the ‘drones’ in corporate employment and tell us how great it is that so many of us are liberating ourselves from office drudgery. What the world envies about the affluent West, though, is its steady full-time jobs. Thankfully, the UK has started creating a few more of them. Let’s hope it continues to do so.

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One Response to In praise of … the full time job

  1. bill40 says:

    The ONS definition of Full Time has changed as far as I can work out. For example if you have a single zero hours contract you are full time even if you work just one hour a week. Please note this is only what I have been able to infer from the ONS. Also 30 hours per week should not be classed as full time because it isn’t. I find it very strange that the figures eerily match previous political narratives.

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