The Underemployment Project

A sociological investigation of underemployment and the lived experiences of underemployed workers

A three-year long project started in January 2023 and addressing an important social issue: the increase in underemployed and vulnerable workers.

About The Project

Workers who are underemployed work below their potential or preference in terms of hours, wages and/or skills. The study will track levels of underemployment over time in the UK and across Europe, detail the composition of the underemployed workforce, pinpoint the predictors and outcomes of being underemployed and highlight the lived experiences of underemployed workers in four UK cities.

The project team includes Professor Vanessa Beck (PI, University of Bristol), Professor Tracey Warren and Dr Luis Torres (Nottingham University), Dr Vanesa Fuertes (University of the West of Scotland), and Professor Daiga Kamerāde (University of Salford).

The research will involve collaborative work with four partners: Bristol One City, Nottingham Citizens, Salford City Council, and the Poverty Alliance, Glasgow.

Why do we focus on underemployment?

In the UK labour market, unemployment hasn’t been particularly high and employment figures are on the strong side. But the kind of work that people have is often not good employment, or enough to live on.

Professor Vanessa A Beck

Associate Professor in Work and Organisation, University of Bristol

Underemployment is of concern for our economy and for the individuals, families, and communities affected by it. This project will investigate the impact it has on various facets of life and society. Understanding of its causes and consequences will lead to improvements in the lives of underemployed individuals.

Dr Vanesa Fuertes

Senior Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland

Underemployment affects not only individual workers but also their families, communities, unions, industrial relations systems, employers and businesses, and business models, making the research results highly relevant to policymakers and their practices.

Professor Tracey Warren

Professor of Sociology, Nottingham University Business School

Underemployment has far reaching implications for workers themselves, their wellbeing, financial security and their families and communities. We will look at these implications and offer evidence-based policy recommendations that could help policy makers, and other interested parties, to tackle the negative consequences resulting from underemployment.

Professor Daiga Kamerāde

Reader in Work and Well-being , University of Salford