To the point: Trapped in mini-jobs

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Will Universal credit deliver on its central claim – to make work pay not just in the first hour but for every subsequent hour?


New research from Gingerbread, the single parents’ charity, shows that this is unlikely.
The Gingerbread research, conducted by the University of Essex, paints a rather dismal picture. Universal Credit will create a much stronger incentive for single parents to move into work than the current system of tax credits. But incentives to progress from part-time work will be weak. This means that single parents are likely to end up in mini-jobs. These jobs are rarely a stepping stone to better things. They offer little in the way of progression. Nearly eight out of ten workers end up stuck on the minimum wage for over a decade.
Take a job that offers few prospects and add to it a benefits system that also does not encourage progression and the reality for single parents is a day-to-day struggle to make ends meet and balance work and family responsibilities. They are likely to either find themselves stuck in low-paid, short-hours work, struggling to earn enough to get by, or they may face requirements from Government to earn more to keep their Universal Credit. Meeting these requirements in jobs that offer little progression will mean stitching together several low-paying jobs.
This future presents particular problems for Britain’s two million single parents, putting them at greater risk of raising their children in poverty. The work incentives presented in the Gingerbread report are weak, without taking into account the costs of childcare. As currently designed, Universal Credit will not deliver on its promise to always make work pay. Fixing childcare support will go some way to making good on that promise and help slow the rise of in-work poverty. If left unchanged, Government is unlikely to make the savings it needs in future welfare budgets from rising single parent employment.

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