This article is from Alison's weekly column for the Wirral News. This post is from 19th March and can be read on the Wirral News website here.
By the time you are reading this column, you will probably know something of the budget statement given by George Osborne to the House of Commons.
And if you are reading this on Wednesday, March 19, at about 4 pm, I’ll be on my feet leading a debate about zero hours contracts. The two events are not unconnected.
Readers may recall that with two other Merseyside colleagues – George Howarth and Luciana Berger – last summer, I launched a survey to find out more about the use of these contracts.
We then wrote a report giving example of where people weren’t able to properly budget or plan for their future, because of a lack of reliable hours at work.
This is especially a problem in the social care sector, where it has been estimated about 300,000 people work on a zero-hours basis.
This makes for all kinds of problems in terms of reliability for the person receiving care, and uncertainty for the care worker.
Now the Chancellor may get up on Wednesday and report good news for the economy, which is a welcome relief given how poor growth has been over the past three years on his watch.
But I would question whether the recovery is good enough if we are still finding people working jobs that barely get them through the month in providing for their family. Prices are up, but wages down. I know people in Wirral have found it tough.
Last week, the ONS said it had to radically increase the number of people it estimated are on zero hours, up from 250,000 to well over 500,000.
This is likely to be because they were previously undercounting, so it is becoming clear that there is much more research to do on this hidden problem in our economy. And there is certainly a long way to go in terms of helping business (especially larger businesses) aim to reduce unnecessary use of zero hours contracts.
But if we have so many people in this position, I would like to ask the Chancellor, what kind of economic recovery is it, unless everyone feels the benefit?