Work-time underemployment and financial hardship: class inequalities and recession in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

April 15, 2015


The economic crisis that led to recession in the UK in 2008–9 impacted in multiple ways on work and economic life. This article examines changes to the work-time of employees. The UK stood out for its recessionary expansion of work-time underemployment. Working in a job that provides ‘too few’ hours can have serious ramifications for the economic livelihood of workers. Working-class workers are central here. Drawing on analysis of large-scale survey data, the article identifies that workers in lower level occupations experienced the most substantial post-recessionary growth in the proportions working ‘too few’ hours. Did these work-time changes narrow or widen class inequalities in feelings of financial hardship? The article concludes that although middle-class workers also saw their financial positions damaged, this so-called ‘first middle-class recession’ did not erode class inequalities in financial hardship among UK workers.

Published in

Work, Employment and Society

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 29 , p.191 -212

DOI 10.1177/0950017014559264





Open Access article

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

Is referenced by: Ormston, R. and Hope, S. (2016) Work and wellbeing: exploring data on inequalities. Dunfermline: Carnegie UK Trust.



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