HR data round-up March 2013: Peak jobs, part-time work and endangered species

XpertHR’s HR data round-up for March 2013 looks at the rise in part-time working in the UK and abroad, and at whether this might be a sign that we are approaching ‘peak jobs,’ and whether the full-time employee could be about to go the way of the dodo. We also provide links to all the latest additions to XpertHR Benchmarking and present our regular round-up of the best HR data blog posts.

Peak jobs & part-time work: Are traditional employees an endangered species?

Dodo head (1848)
The UK labour market is experiencing a long-term trend towards a strong rise in part-time work, with the creation of part-time jobs outstripping the creation of full-time jobs. This trend was accelerated by the economic downturn.

But what are the implications of this rise in part-time work for organisations and for workers?

  • Are organisations at risk of losing vital knowledge and expertise through the rise of a contingent workforce?
  • Could the traditional, full-time employee become an ‘endangered species’?
  • And is the rise in part-time work a symptom of the ‘peak jobs’ phenomenon?

Here, we look at data on the rise of part-time work, and assess each of the above questions.

Could organisations ‘get dumber’ due to the rise in part-time working?

The composition of the workforce is changing fast, with part-time job creation overtaking full-time jobs over recent years both in the UK and overseas.

Yesterday, Graham Frost shared his views on the rise in part-time working, via  comment here on the XpertHR blog:

In my opinion, the growth in the number of people in work is due to the growth in the number of people in part-time work. Of course, if you are in part-time work, you need more than one part-time job to survive.

Canadian HR blogger Jane Watson highlights some potential consequences of the rise in part-time working for employers and for workers:

  • “[T]he traditional employee [could] become an endangered species in the years to come.”
  • Companies could face severe knowledge management challenges. Jane asks: “Will a mostly contingent, and thus transient, workforce reduce the ability of our organizations to nurture and develop collective talent and intelligence? That is, will our organizations get dumber?”

UK creates more full-time jobs than part-time jobs in latest data…

The trend for UK labour market to add more part-time jobs than full-time jobs actually went into reverse in the latest labour market data from ONS:

  • The UK labour market benefited from the strongest growth in full-time jobs seen since 2005, which rose by 394,000 over the three months to December 2012.
  • This was more than double the rate of increase in part-time jobs, which rose by 190,000 over the same period.

…but full-time jobs remain significantly down on pre-recession levels

However, ONS notes that despite this, the number of UK workers in full-time jobs remains significantly down on levels seen prior to the economic downturn:

The more recent increases in full-time employment have not offset the falls that occurred through the 2008-09 recession. For the most recent period in October to December 2012, full-time employment was 378,000 lower than in April to June 2008, the first quarter of the 2008-09 recession. Part-time employment was 572,000 higher compared with the same period.”

The long-term trend would appear to be for the gradual replacement of many full-time jobs with part-time jobs. It remains to be seen if the more recent trend for the creation of full-time jobs to overtake that for part-time jobs can be sustained.

Is the UK approaching ‘peak jobs’?

Could the long-term trend towards a rise in part-time work mean that the UK is approaching a ‘peak jobs’ scenario?

Australian blogger Shane Granger provides a useful definition of peak jobs:

In simple terms [...] ‘Peak Jobs’ is the idea that technology is replacing jobs faster than it’s creating them.

Shane argues that this trend is likely to affect most if not all industrialised countries. He has analysed data on long-term labour market trends in Australia and the UK to see if we might be approaching peak jobs. Shane’s conclusion is stark:

 With an increasing working age population and a growing gap between jobs available the future is looking anything but certain, especially with the rise of labour augmentation and robotics replacing jobs [ever] quicker.”

Shane provides detailed analysis of long-term trends in the composition of the UK labour market (over the 20 years from 1992 to 2012):

The UK created an additional 4.093-million new jobs; from 25.635-million in early 1992 to a record 29.729-million jobs at the end of 2012 (the pre-GFC high was 29.572-million in Mar-May 2008). The UK has steadily increased its working age population since 1992 (due to a combination a slightly lower than replacement fertility rate plus a higher immigration to migration ratio) which has left it with 3,734,000-million less jobs than that required to employ the 7.828-million increase in the working age labour force.

2-uk-ft-pt-employment-increases-1992-2012.png(The chart above is reproduced with Shane’s kind permission.)

Shane concludes that the UK could be fast approaching a ‘peak jobs’ scenario, and that the rise in part-time work is evidence of this possible trend:

In conclusion looking at the UK ‘employment type’ data is further confirmation of a global trend toward greater reliance on part-time employment, which on one hand is increasing employment to record levels while at the same time decreasing the amount of work available. Has the UK reached peak employment yet? I’m not convinced it has but the more I look at the global data the more I am convinced we are reaching that point in the next decade.

And where might ‘peak jobs’ leave HR?

Peak jobs also has major implications for HR.

Specific areas of employment that could soon become extinct as automation replaces the need for human employees.

And where might HR find itself when humans have left the office building?

UPDATE 1 (Wednesday 13 March 2013): Is the full-time working era a ‘post-war blip’?

Here is my Storify story, rounding up reactions to the above piece from the international HR community on Twitter.

UPDATE 2 (Thursday 14 March 2013): Goodbye HR, hello AIR (artificial intelligence resources)?

Could peak jobs mean that HR’s days are numbered, meaning that the profession will have to evolve into AIR (artificial intelligence resources)?

The “HR into AIR” concept was floated in a very interesting Google+ comment on the issues discussed here. See the image below for all G+ comments on this topic so far. The full text is also reproduced directly below the image.


  • Quarsh: “Great post Michael, a very interesting though that the UK could have reached its optimum job number. Perhaps HR can evolve into AIR (artificial intelligence resources) when it is such that the workforce is replaced by technology.”
  • Michael Carty: “Cheers for the kind words, and I am very taken with the “AIR” concept! Is that one you came up with yourself? Might be worth copyrighting right now, if so!”
  • Lucie Anabella: “I think part-time working is a very useful tool in business.

    “There is a risk of a lack of continuity but surely if you have the right people in the right role and they are managed effectively a part-time work force could serve as a very cost-effective method of staffing a firm. Why pay a full-time salary if you don’t have to?

    “Part-time working is also great for society. As more and more families need a second salary coming in, the option to work part-time or flexible hours is very useful. Especially if you consider the cost of child care.”
  • Michael Carty: “Hi Lucie! Thank you for taking the time to comment here. As you point out, there are certainly a number of potential advantages to part-time working, both for employers and for workers. However, I would argue that the rise in part-time working seen over years isn’t necessarily a singularly positive phenomenon. Part-time working is an excellent solution if it suits both employer and worker. But what if the worker really wants to work full-time, and there just aren’t there full-time roles available? Mervyn Dinnen makes this point very well in this post:

Related links from XpertHR:

Further reading:

XpertHR Benchmarking: Latest additions!

XpertHR’s unique interactive HR benchmarking service keeps growing!

Check out the latest survey datasets to be added to XpertHR Benchmarking:

  • HR Roles & Responsibilities 2013 

    The 2013 XpertHR benchmarking survey of HR functions, what they do, and how they do it. Includes essential benchmarking data on a range of key HR benchmarks, including: Ratio of HR staff to employees; HR budgets; and HR department effectiveness. The survey is based on responses from 298 HR practitioners, covering a combined workforce of 216,086 employees.

  • Managing Retirement 2013

    The 2013 XpertHR benchmarking survey of retirement management issues following the abolition of the default retirement age. The survey is based on responses from 138 organisations with a combined workforce of 307,653 employees.

Click here for the full list of HR benchmarking survey datasets that can be accessed via XpertHR Benchmarking!

HR data blog post round-up: March 2013

Here’s our latest monthly pick of top blog posts on HR data issues from XpertHR’s blogs and other blogs:

About XpertHR’s monthly HR data round-up

XpertHR’s round-up of HR data for March 2013 is the latest instalment in an ongoing monthly series.

Each post in this series highlights latest HR data releases from XpertHR and other sources, alongside links to news stories and blog posts of direct or indirect relevance to issues around using HR data.

If there are any HR-related data measures you would like to see covered in future XpertHR data round-ups, or if there are any surveys or HR data blog posts that you would like to see highlighted, please do get in touch. You can submit comments via the box below, or contact me directly via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

XpertHR data round-up archive

Catch up with all the posts in XpertHR’s data round-up series!

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