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Boom in zero-hours contracts contributing to high employment

The number of UK workers on zero-hours contracts has more than tripled since 2012 and accounts for almost a quarter of employment growth, according to Adzuna

Zero-hours contracts have grown by 258% since 2012, with 901,000 workers currently employed on this contract type, up from 252,000. As a result zero-hours workers currently represent 2.8% of the UK workforce, figures from Adzuna show.

Meanwhile, the number of workers in employment overall has risen by 2.42 million over the same period; from 29.73 million in 2012 to 32.15 million in 2017.

This means that zero-hours contracts represent more than a quarter (26.8%) of overall employment growth over the past five years, the figures showed.

The Adzuna findings showed that this form of employment is growing at a fast rate, with almost a quarter of a million vacancies (225,000) currently being advertised on this particular job site. As of 1 September 2018 there were 143,294 temporary contract vacancies, 6,838 freelance roles and 74,983 part-time positions available on the UK jobs market, according to Adzuna.

Many of these jobs are clustered in London and the South East, the figures showed. London has 2,387 freelance opportunities (offering an average salary of £49,907), 26,071 contract vacancies (with an average salary of £36,825) and 9,671 part-time positions (with an average salary of £28,417).

However, opportunities for flexible work are much rarer away from the home counties. The North East, for example, currently offers only 141 freelance vacancies (with an average salary of £41,912), 3,933 contract roles (£24,725 average salary) and 2,480 part-time opportunities (£25,741).

Similarly, the number of roles on offer in Yorkshire and the Humber is just 217 for freelance roles (average salary of £44,175), 7,408 for contract jobs (£25,054) and 3,918 for part-time vacancies (£25,499).

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said that the soaring number of zero-hours contracts, which are included in employment rates, suggests that high employment figures could be misleading.

“MPs are quick to sing the praises of an improving jobs market, but the headline figures are drowning out the detail," he said. "A big chunk of the employment boost is down to a boom in zero-hours contracts and 'gig' jobs, which do not always offer the same employment rights and stability of fixed contracts. As a result overall figures look rosier than reality. Other workers have been forced into self-employment not out of choice but to escape the breadline, and many use the gig economy to top-up their pay packets."

He added that flexible working was vital to opening the talent pool, but said that it was important that this did not lead to insecurity.

“A more flexible jobs market is emerging that offers people more opportunity to fit work around their lifestyle. This is especially crucial to help working mothers, students and older workers – for whom full time nine to five may be impossible – to break into and stay in the workforce," he said. "But it is important that workers needing flexibility aren’t forced into contracts with no security or guaranteed pay simply through a lack of choice.”