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Who Are the Underemployed?


Unlike unemployment, which is easy to define, underemployment is somewhat subjective. What constitutes not having enough work? PayScale’s recent report examined three major reasons why people describe themselves as underemployed: not earning enough money, not using education or training, or not getting full-time hours. Any way you slice the data, it’s clear that underemployment is a common problem: Over 40 percent of respondents described themselves as underemployed.


1. “I am underpaid.”

A whopping 80.2 percent of respondents who classified themselves as underemployed use money — or lack of it — as their metric. In fact, not being paid enough was the primary reason for identifying as underemployed for every job.

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2. “I am not using my education or training.”

14.7 percent said that their jobs didn’t make full use of their education. Jobs like office clerk (36 percent), warehouse worker (37 percent), and data entry operator (38 percent) tended to feel as if their jobs didn’t use their training, but in every case, money still won out as the primary reason.

3. “I work part-time but want to work full-time.”

5.1 percent said they’d prefer full-time hours, but only get part-time work. This answer was common in retail and food service, in jobs like line cook (35 percent) and retail sales associate (36 percent). Still, though, money was the big motivator for defining oneself as underemployed; 46 percent of retail sales associates and 58 percent of line cooks chose being underpaid as their primary reason for describing themselves as underemployed.


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Are you underemployed? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Jeff FinlayGeorgeRonald Dodge, CPA Recent comment authors
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I come from the main land, and the pay scale is different from California.
I’m not surprised, however, my education and experience may have some
employers believe I’m overqualified. How do I answer the question concerning
desired salary?

Ronald Dodge, CPA
Ronald Dodge, CPA

With both the soft skills and hard skills, I have all 5 of them. Two of the 5 soft skills were not easy for me to come by as a result of an issue I dealt with, but I overcame that issue while still in high school. Of the hard skills, two of the 5 wasn’t even thought of when I was in high school, but since that time, I had acquired all 5 of them. But then again, even… Read more »

Jeff Finlay
Jeff Finlay

I looking at the top 5 soft skills needed, I have 4 of the five. Guess which one I don’t have? Hands on experience in the field I am trying to enter.
Looking at the top five hard skills, I have all five. But its not the field where I want to work. So tell me again why am I unemployed.

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