Labour market

Unemployment rose significantly as a result of the economic downturn, stabilising at about 2.5 million at the end of 2010 [1]. With over half a million public sector jobs expected to be cut, even a strong private sector recovery may not be enough to prevent further substantial increases in overall unemployment levels [2]. The situation may also be exacerbated by increasing competition for jobs as a result of global connections between markets and immigration, and by plans to increase the retirement age (see changes to retirement and pensions) in Britain [3]. Other major trends include the move for many people from full time to part time work and Britain’s shift from a low-skilled to a high-skilled knowledge-based economy.

What are the implications?

  • Levels of poverty and inequality are likely to rise with increased unemployment, creating more demand for the services of VCOs.
  • Pressure on organisations that work with unemployed people to develop their skills and help them into work.
  • Possible increase in labour pool for the VCS due to increased competition in other sectors or if values of social justice become more important in a downturn.
  • Increased competition for jobs may lead individuals to develop additional skills which may ease skills gaps.
  • Large number of school and university leavers are likely to have particular difficulty finding work.
  • Levels of volunteering may increase if people turn to volunteering as a way of spending their time and developing skills.
  • A decrease in levels of consumer spending.

Moving forward

With levels of poverty and inequality likely to increase as a result of rising unemployment, the VCS may face a rise in demand for their services. 

  • How can your organisation support people who become suddenly unemployed and unable to support themselves or their dependents?
  • Following changes to unemployment benefits, how can you help the long-term unemployed and those on incapacity benefit prepare for a return to work?
  • Do you have a role in ensuring that government policies and benefit systems aimed at getting people back into work are fair to marginalised or vulnerable people?

With high unemployment levels and predicted job cuts in the public sector, a highly skilled labour market will be available to the VCS.

  • How can you take advantage of the increased availability of skilled employees? 
  • Do you need to re-assess your employment practice, for example in how you advertise posts?

There may be an increase in the number of skilled people volunteering. 

  • How can you attract these people to your organisation?
  • How do you ensure that volunteers in your organisation are used appropriately in a way that values and develops their skills?

Want to know more?

Building a better balanced UK economy

Published by: IPPR

Date: July 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? This substantial report attempts to identify where new jobs are likely to emerge in the future. It identifies the current structure of UK employment, discusses the trends over the last eight years and looks at how employment is likely to develop in the next economic cycle.

How useful is this? This is a useful report for identifying key issues and obtaining a general impression of how employment is changing. The latter half is directed more at government so may be of less interest to many VCOs.

Other comments:

The changing pattern of earnings: employees, migrants and low-paid families

Published by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)

Date: October 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? This short report discusses “the assumption that individuals can work themselves out of poverty”. It is based on longitudinal data from the Lifetime Labour Market Database.

How useful is this? Based on longitudinal data recorded over three decades, this report is useful for analysing trends.Unfortunately, the PDF available online is too short to give more than a brief discussion, although this does make the results very accessible.

Other comments:

Unemployment in your area

Published by: The BBC website business section, based on figures from the Office of National Statistics

Date: January 2010

Format: Web with downloadable excel

What is it? A map of the UK showing the percentage of unemployment claimants.

How useful is this? Its utility mainly comes from how interactive the map is. There is an accessible overview of the country, as well as the ability to search and zoom. It also shows you how this has changed historically.

Other comments:

No way to start out in life

Published by: The Economist, a monthly current affairs magazine, favouring free market economics

Date: July 2009

Format: Web

What is it? This article focuses on the labour market situation for younger people. It presents key data and an intelligent discussion of the key issues.

How useful is this? Although this article is clearly of particular interest in organisations working with younger people, it certainly has a broader relevance. As the article notes, the plight of the “lost generation” is also of particular relevance to crime and to civil society more widely.


  1. National Employment Statistics - ONS, 2011 [back]
  2. Statistical Bulletin: Labour Market Statistics October 2010 - ONS [back]
  3. Quarterly survey report Summer 2010: Labour Market Outlook - KPMG/CIPD [back]
Last updated at 16:36 Fri 25/Mar/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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