Accessibility statement

Real London Lives

Posted on 11 August 2015

The rise of ‘jigsaw jobs’ still leave London residents struggling financially


lives at work report, Julie rugg, social housing tenants and employment unemployment

[text from G15 Housing]

  • Two years into the three-year longitudinal study of Real London Lives reveals a trend of residents remaining in work but experiencing a reduction in working hours and low pay
  • The availability of tax credits played a substantial role in encouraging residents to take work and stay in work.

Social housing residents living in London are increasingly juggling two poorly paid jobs which fit together in terms of hours, so called ‘jigsaw jobs’.  This is to try and overcome reduced working hours and low pay experienced during the last year, according to new qualitative research by the g15 group of London’s largest housing associations. 

The in-depth interviews with residents revealed that almost everyone who was in part-time work wanted to increase their working hours.  However, despite being in paid work, ‘jigsaw jobs’ still never equalled full-time employment for residents and often managing the two positions together lead to more problems. In addition, ‘jigsaw jobs’ usually resulted in residents being worse off financially, working for below the minimum wage after expenses such as agency fees and travel costs have been deducted. 

The latest research from the Real London Lives project - which is now two years into a three-year longitudinal study examining the lives of London’s social housing tenants – revealed the emerging trend was not increasing unemployment, but under-employment, with residents doing everything possible to try and combat a reduction in their working hours.  In some cases this had reduced income from a full-time to a part-time wage, but in many others, already part-time hours had been pared away further to leave erratic shifts at odd times.

Making work pay was difficult for many residents, but the availability of tax credit played a substantial role in encouraging people to take work and stay in work.  However, social housing residents still believe it is better to be in work rather than rely on benefits, even if work is only slightly more profitable.

In depth interviews with over 70 households also found:

  • Three quarters of households are still in work a year on
  • None of the households contained ‘generations out of work’, contrary to widely held myths about residents living in social housing
  • The majority of teenage children in the survey are heading for higher education

Mark Rogers, CEO of Circle Housing and Deputy Chair of the g15 comments said:

“Our latest findings underline the determination of social housing residents to go out to work and make a better life for themselves and their families.

“However, the vast majority of residents are being forced to make tough choices about the type of work they take on as they juggle a complex combination of factors, including childcare arrangements, erratic working hours, travel costs and managing the impact of benefits.

“In light of further changes proposed by the Government and reductions in public services, the challenges and choices facing residents are likely to get much tougher over the coming years.”  

Alarmingly for the small numbers who are out of work, it was felt that the Job Centre’s job search process is too time-consuming and residents had little confidence that it would help them back into employment.   

The research is undertaken by Julie Rugg from CHP.

Click here for information about the launch event and publicity around the report. Launch report (PDF , 1,061kb)