Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Do you need to do two jobs?
Over a million British workers have taken second jobs to make ends meet, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In the year when house prices have risen by 10%, the OND's labour force survey shows a 68% increase since 1984 in the number of people doing two jobs.

Low-paid staff, such as cleaners, are earning more money by working for more than one employer and part-time workers are three times as likely to have second jobs as full-time workers.

The report also found that of 84,000 teachers who hold another job, nearly half have their second job in teaching.

Does the current market force people to work harder to keep afloat? Do we expect a higher standard of living today? Have you had to take a second job?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I work twice as long as most people

James Garland, UK
I work a 75 hour week on 3 low paid jobs. The reason is - and I admit it now - I was lazy at school - and ended up dropping out with no qualifications. I work 45 hours a week in a fast food restaurant, 15 hours in a convenience store, and 15 hours as a school cleaner. My salary before tax is £16k - yet I work twice as long as most people and enjoy no luxuries.
James Garland, UK

I know of nurses who have HAD to turn to prostitution to survive. The hidden poverty in our country is a national scandal. How many people need to be disconnected from life never mind society before the inevitable consequences?
Eileen, UK

I don't see why people should be frowned upon for wanting a decent standard of living and the odd night out/holiday


There are some extremely unfair and glib comments here. If some people want to work two jobs to afford extra luxuries, then that's great - good for them. However, the point many people here are trying to make is that for many people, it is necessary to have two jobs in order to afford a basic standard of living. I don't see why people should be frowned upon for wanting a decent standard of living and the odd night out/holiday.

I studied hard at college and University, have a good degree, and a good job. However, I am currently renting my home, and cannot afford on my income (even without holidays!) to even think about buying a home. It is SO frustrating to spend 5 years paying off someone else's mortgage, putting up with their choice of furniture and wallpaper, with the threat of receiving notice at any time your landlord wants to move back in/sell up, knowing that realistically there is nothing you can do about it without either moving away from your current job, friends and family to go up north where the cost of living is cheaper, or taking on extra job and giving up health and social life. There is more to life than money - very true, but unfortunately it is increasingly hard for the middle level of society, and especially single people, to make any kind of progress towards a secure future in today's climate.

It's worrying that interest rates are at an historic low yet people are also complaining about not being able to service their debt. What will happen if interest rates go up as predicted! Also, I work for a multinational that has frozen all pay increases this year. The effect of this reduced income combined with large increases in National insurance and Council Tax and fuel bills this year is probably common to many. I think the only hope of avoiding meltdown is to ensure that interest rates don't go up until tangible very positive effects are felt in the real economy and not just in the consumer or housing markets.
Matt W, Devon, England

I feel for some of the people that think they need two jobs. The obvious solution is to slash overheads and the small luxuries, save money and invest. Too many people think that they have to spend money and buy into every fad that is going, buying a house and car are all very well if you can afford them, but be realistic. The last thing I will say is this, how many of you working three jobs have got credit card debt?

If there was a story about a movie star who did two movies back-to-back just so that they could afford another mansion, you would think it was pathetic given how much they owned already. That is what I think people in the Third World would think of us if they could see some of the comments on this page. Just click on some of the other links on this website to see how many people in this world have nothing to eat or drink and no roof (owned or rented) over the heads.

The current generation in the Western world is the most spoiled ever and takes all the benefits of being born in this part of the world for granted. Every day I wake up and I am so grateful for everything that I have just because I was so lucky enough to be born in the UK. So what if you can't have everything you want right now - at least you can run a tap and drink clean water any time you want under whatever roof you do have the good fortune to live under. If you always compare yourself to people who have more than you, you will never have enough. When you compare yourself to people who have less than you do, you will always be grateful for what you have.
Mark Ellis, UK

I come from the "two jobs" camp - not necessarily wholly out of choice. I work as a carer for children with learning disabilities but in order to be able to afford to do this I need also to do other work as well. At the risk of sounding like a whinger, care staff are severely underpaid, denied basic employment rights such as meal breaks, numerous of us are in "casual" employment which saves employers holiday and sickness allowances and so the rate of secondary employment amongst this group is high. You could argue I am operating a choice - and to a certain level I am - I want to work as a carer so in order to do so I accept the need for extra hours (I mean 60+ hours weekly in total) in order to achieve my desired (and not extravagant) lifestyle.
Jo, England

As a nursing student I have found that simply to keep up with rent, food, transport and study aids I have to have 3 jobs. These are part time, not because I want to enjoy flexible hours and go out partying (I have niether time or money for them) but because I have to fit them around my course work.
RhiannonS, UK

I dont want to work two jobs, but I guess I dont have a choice. Bills need to be paid, and saving a little here and there may get me a house one day. Maybe with lower payments instead a rent I could have one job again.
Mark Paul, Boston,USA

If you want all the trappings of materialism you have to work for them

Dave Tankard, UK
A lot of comments here highlight the problems. "It costs £3 for a sandwich" - it actually costs less than £1 if you make it yourself. "It costs £3-£4 for a pint" - then invite your mates around to your house and it costs £1.50 per can from the supermarket. "I pay £200 on car repayments" - drive an older car then (mine is 8 years old). "My job pays badly and I hate it" - look for another job. This isn't rocket science after all. If you want all the trappings of materialism you have to work for them. If you don't want to work for them then don't complain you can't afford them.
Dave Tankard, UK

I guess the majority of people who have written here live in the SE of England. Maybe some employers should think of relocating to elsewhere. My husband and I both work, between us we probably earn £35000. We manage to pay a mortgage on a 3 bedroom detached - pay for childcare £600 a month, run 2 cars and have 3 holidays a year. My older child can walk to school quite safely, I can leave work to take her to any after school activities she wants to go to. When I was in my 20's I lived in London and I loved it - I had a whale of a time - but now my priorities have changed. Working 2 jobs is no good for anyone - why don't some of these people try and move away - up North, I'm sure that would be better for everyone!
And by the way I don't live in the wilderness but 15 miles from the centre of Edinburgh!
Janie, Scotland

Thanks to the hard work of my parents I have been able to get a degree

My mum works a 35 hour Monday to Friday office job, and has had several additional jobs, including nightshift at a supermarket, cleaning at weekends and evening factory work on top of this. My dad also has a second weekend job. This is not to support an extragavant lifestyle - my family never had holidays abroad or expensive clothes and my parents very rarely went out while I was growing up.

Thanks to the hard work of my parents I have been able to get a degree, and a job where I earn enough money to survive without having to put in this extra work. Ideally, everyone should have this chance.

This perception that some people have that people work two jobs to buy the latest BMW or three foreign holidays a year is simply not true. Try being a first time buyer in London. Most of your income goes on bills and high rent leaving you unable to put much away for a deposit on a home. I work two jobs to try and get myself on the property ladder only to see house prices rise all the time. I have never taken anything from the government and worked hard all my adult life. Perhaps I should get myself a criminal record, give up working and wait for my council house to come along.
G, London, UK

I'd rather have spare time than spare cash

Anon, UK
I used to work two lower paid jobs (bar work and temping) as both were unreliable form week to week, but since having a permanent full time job I have stopped working evenings so I can spend more time with my friends and family. If I was single and had more free time I would definitely consider taking on a second job for the small amount of extra cash but also for the social interaction. More money would come in useful at the minute as I would like to start saving but I'd rather have some spare time than spare cash.
Anon, UK

We do expect a higher standard of living today but I wouldn't claim that I work harder than my parents did. They spent a significant part of their lives fighting a world war, and during their childhood they had to work a lot harder than I did. However, it does seem to be difficult to maintain the standard of living that we have come to expect. I still remember though, when I first got married in 1975. I had a full time job, working six days a week, and still struggled to pay the electricity bill. I think that all things are relative. We expect more today therefore we have to work harder to get it.
Phil T, Oman

This problem shows a spiralling problem in society. We have a "class" of people who cannot afford to live on one job alone. This isn't a case of too much tax, or people wanting too many luxuries, it is a case of the low paid being fleeced by employers. The national minimum wage is a joke, people cannot be expected to live on it, especially in London, where a sandwich will cost you £3. What we see is people in low paid jobs, having to take on more, spend less time with their children, who in turn will not grow into constructive members of society. Added to this, advertising and marketing tell people that they are bad parents if they don't buy their kids the toys the want, or the clothes that are "in" at the moment. We cannot carry on moving towards this American form of capitalism, otherwise we will see the escalation of the problems that the states has - disenfranchised youth and endemic levels of crime. Employers must pay people a reasonable, liveable wage.
Vish, UK

Materialism? Wish I could afford it!

Dan, UK
Try starting from scratch today and see how hard it is. Try buying or renting a small flat in the South East of England for less than 600 pounds a month. Then pay your annually spiralling council tax, your utility bills, and your stealth taxes on fuel and insurance. If you can get this lot under 1,200 pounds a month (or about 150 a month less than the national average wage take home amount, please tell me your secret. Materialism? Wish I could afford it!
Dan, UK

I understand the problem but I would be happy just to even get my first job, here! Coming to England from Spain, it isn't easy for me to get a job now, for obvious reasons, although I am a qualified teacher in my country! Some people should not complain, as many others have it worse. I hope you understand that I do not want to take any kind of job. I am a teacher, and I feel that I should to use my qualifications and my already long experience in schools.
Rosa-Linda, Spain

I would never have two jobs or work overtime - my free time is too precious to me to waste on more work. I have live with in my means of one job and don't lust after more 'stuff' such as better and bigger cars, houses, holidays or designer clothes. I am happy with what I have got. Most people are trapped in a vicious upward spiral of wanting more. More means more work to pay for the stuff.
David LJ, Isle of Man UK

Until the UK stops taxing their people to death, they will never be able to have a first class livelihood like we do in the good ole US of A.
Weston, USA

I have three.
Robert del Valle, USA

I will be probably doing two jobs for 3/4 months during my vacation from university. A combination of library work and restaurant work will be the case. I want to do this, as in Paul's case, to have little student debt as possible and to put on a slightly bigger deposit on a house when I graduate in 15 months time.
Helen, UK

The TA can boost your wage packet. I earned over ?4000 last year working on average every other weekend going away with mates doing interesting things and enjoying myself. This is on top of my normal wages. We're recruiting now. National TA open day- 18th May!
Chris Warwick, UK

Many of the comments on this page are from people desperate to buy a house. It's about time we stopped this pathetic obsession. After all, only a generation or two ago, a manual worker on the average wage would never have owned their own home. There was a comment on another page from some "poor" twenty something earning only ?10K who couldn't afford a house. Doh!
Karen, UK

Karen, I hate comments like yours. Why shouldn't people who work hard buy a house instead of lining other people's pockets with rent? You rent if you want but most see it as tipping good money away.
Adam, UK

It reflects that the government's minimum wage policy is hopeless

Tony, Welling, Kent
I only have one job and simply have no time to do a second job. I need my rest. I think the requirement to have two jobs just to make ends meet is an indictment of our way of life. It takes jobs away from those who need them, but it also reflects the fact that the government's minimum wage policy is hopeless. I am quite sure that the only way forward is to ensure that a good minimum wage is paid. £4.20 is derisory when the average is £10-12 an hour. This is simply not economic sense. Nor do I have any personal sympathy with those who say that we should work harder for qualifications. This country has a ridiculous belief that only qualifications will help. Many people have all the relevant qualifications but there are not all that many jobs to go around. Experience is not taken into account as it should be.
Tony, Welling, Kent

We don't need more money to live (in fact less if average earnings/inflation are calculated). We WANT more money so we can have more material comforts.
David Phillips, Wales UK

I have made myself ill

Vanessa, England
I am educated to A-level standard, got good grades at college and worked hard. However I have to work two jobs one full-time and one part-time to a point where I have made myself ill. I have no debts but still cannot afford to live on what pay I take home and I work for local government! I also cannot get a mortgage so I feel completely stuck. I disagree with people saying that people in low-paid jobs obviously have not tried in life. That is totally untrue. I have worked hard for what I have got and have not been handed anything on a plate.
Vanessa, England

Average working people in this country give well over half their wages to the government in one form or another (think of the petrol on the journey to work, your NI and income tax and the taxes on everything you buy). Maybe if we kept more of the money we earn, some of the people who have made comments on this site could get by on job number one.
Alex Keenleyside, Englang

I've got two jobs - I need to in order to be able to afford the deposit on a flat in Surrey. I have a degree and a doctorate and I earn what would be a good salary anywhere else in the UK. I have a stressful day job, and I work Saturday and half of Sunday in an estate agency. I would love to move elsewhere in the UK, but the nature of my job means that I have to live close to London. As I'm on my own and renting a flat at the moment, I can't afford to save for a deposit on a flat of my own, and I can't get a 100% mortgage. Even educated people who have relatively good salaries need two jobs.
Lisa, UK

All my friends know me as being tight

Chris Cowdery, UK
Nobody needs two jobs. However, if you feel you must have a new car every year, go abroad for your holidays, live in the south east, buy CDs and the latest clothes, then possibly you need two jobs. I manage very well one a single job, but then my car is an old nail, I refuse to buy new items unless the old ones are totally useless (not just last year's fashion) and my annual holidays tend to be low cost local affairs. All my friends know me as being tight, but it hasn't killed me yet!
Chris Cowdery, UK

I hope that I'm not in the way of any of the vehicle drivers coming home very tired indeed, from their second or third job!!!
Stephen Frankling, England

We work all the hours under the sun to afford things we want, then we have to continue working all the hours under the sun in order to keep them. So do you own your possessions, or do they own you?
Rich James, UK

People will never get ahead in one or more jobs where someone else controls how much they make

Eileen, UK
My partner and I both have full time jobs and have a four-year-old daughter. We get by but we made a decision about a year ago that getting by was not all we want for ourselves or our daughter. We are taught to get a good education so that we can get a good job, work hard until you retire. We are now being told that people will generally have to work to 72 to get anywhere near a decent pension. So a second job was not for us. Running our own part-time business is.

As our income grows we know our financial future is secure because it is in our own hands. We want a good lifestyle and the time to enjoy it and are prepared to work for it. You cannot have financial freedom (which is our ultimate goal) whilst working to make someone else wealthy. People will never really get ahead no matter how hard they work in one or more jobs where someone else controls how much they make and how they use their precious time. People with two jobs will always have to have two jobs in order to make ends meet. The thought of a life like that until 60 or 65 or even 72 fills me with horror.
Eileen, UK

I have no sympathy - one needs to try harder in life

Alan, London, UK
If the same people who complain about this situation actually tried harder when they were at school to get better qualifications or perform well in their current job to gain promotion, there wouldn't be any need to have two jobs. I have no sympathy - one needs to try harder in life and go and make things happen, not just sit back and wait for that lottery win, or take another job.
Alan, London, UK

Alan, London UK: Try harder at school, get promotion through performing better in order to earn more? I didn't do well at school as, basically I wasn't given any support. I joined the army and have fought in every little scrap since 1987. Thankfully the army also gave me an education and I got a law degree. I have left the army now and work 10-11 hour days in a 'good career' giving my all. I am no slacker and am now relatively well-paid. I have been lucky but it annoys me when people like you blame the individual for not pulling themselves up. Not everyone can. It takes a hell of a lot of work. It annoys me when people who are so far up themselves tell others to just get on with it. Did you come from a deprived background? If not, you have not got a clue, son. I have started training part-time as well to become a teacher so as I can hopefully help stop today's youngsters having the problems I have had. What are you prepared to do to give something back?

According to Alan's (UK) logic, unless you earn good money, you are stupid. What an idiot! I've seen people with a less superior education than me attain jobs paying twice my salary. Different industries pay different rates of pay, and it depends on which industry you work for as to whether you earn a good salary or not. Generally, people choose a career that suits their interests, vocational abilities and, once leaving school, pursue that choice academically and practically. Unfortunately, it is not always apparent as to the future financial remuneration that is associated with your academic choice that leads into your future career.
PG. G.C.S.E., H.N.D., B-TEC., Bsc., O.B.E., UK

A proper, well-rounded education will lead you out of poverty

Sarahlou, England
I visited the US in 1979 and noticed teachers, firemen and almost everyone had two and three jobs. It is the norm there. I don't mind doing two jobs as the current salary structure throughout the UK stinks. I was taught by my parents that a proper, well-rounded education will lead you out of poverty. I listened to them and secured a proper, well-rounded education but I just can't seem to find an employer who is willing to pay me what I am worth, despite them being amazed at my educational attainment, and praising me for it. I still don't receive the money, so two jobs it is, just to live at a basic level.
Sarahlou, England

As a science graduate with five years' industrial experience, I earn just over the national average wage: £24,000. Once I have made my essential pension contribution and paid my income tax and NI, I take home £1,300 a month. From this I have to pay every month: £700 rent, £80 council tax, £200 car purchase, £80 car insurance, £50 contents and life insurance, £100 for gas, electric and water, £100 petrol. Already my wage packet has gone and I haven't eaten, paid my TV licence or my phone bill. This means either I have to find a more highly paid job, or I have to take on a second job. There are many more people in the same position. Some of my colleagues who earn the same as me, have to support families. How else can anyone do this without a second wage?
Robbie, UK

It's a good reflection on British society that people work extra rather than claim benefits

Stephen, N. Ireland
I work full-time and earn good money; however my fiancée still needs to work two part-time jobs, as well as a child minding job to help us make ends meet. The root cause of this for us was buying a house. As first-time buyers we were finding it extremely difficult to find a decent home for us and our new baby at a reasonable price we could afford. Buying a house for the first time was like trying to jump on a roundabout while it was still spinning. The one consolation we have is that through time our mortgage will seem to grow relatively smaller as our wages get higher. When that time comes hopefully our main jobs will be all that we need. In the meantime, we will work all that we can to ensure a sound future for our daughter in the hope that she doesn't get caught in the same money trap. I think it's a good reflection on British society that the majority of people are willing to work extra to increase their quality of life rather than claim benefits from the state and sit back watching the rest of the nation pay for their lifestyles.
Stephen, N. Ireland

There is a vast difference between the concepts of "I want a new car, a big house, a private pool" and "I need a roof over my head." If you want to keep up with the Joneses then don't whinge about what you have to do to achieve it. Besides which, why is having two part-time jobs seen as anything unusual? If a plumber does 15 small jobs during a week, do people wring their hands at "this poor worker having to take 15 jobs to make ends meet"? Of course not - you work the hours to achieve an income. Cut your coat according to your cloth.
John B, UK

I only had debts of £3,000 when I graduated

Paul, UK
As a full-time student during my vacations, I worked 0900-1900 in a call centre and then from 1900-midnight in the pub over the road. During term-time I worked in two bars and one club to fill five nights week. As a consequence I only had debts of £3,000 when I graduated.
Paul, UK

I don't have a second job at present, but I do think about it sometimes. When I think about the crippling cost of living here and add to it the cost of childcare, since we want children someday, I get very depressed. We're not frivolous spenders but the money seems to disappear by itself anyway. Salaries are pathetically low while the cost of living, especially mortgages, keeps increasing. Something has to give, or the UK is going to become a Third World country within my lifetime, with an enormous divide between the haves and have-nots.
Stacey Turner, American in the UK

My wife has two jobs. She works 16 hours a week as a teaching assistant in our local primary school and around 20 hours a month for my company, doing book-keeping and tax stuff. She certainly doesn't do it for the money (she could earn nearly as much money flipping burgers as she gets working in school). Lots of her friends are in the same position - working for the fun of it rather than for the money. I guess that people like these still get counted in the statistics, and help to create a somewhat false impression of people's working habits and motivations.
John, England

Neither pays well and I loathe both

I work in IT and have a second job. If another person turns to me and asks me why I am doing this I will scream. It is rubbish that it is a well-paid industry. I am not doing an 8-10 hour day and then trotting off, flogging my guts out at job two. Then I work a 12 hour day all weekend as well; it is not for fun. I need the money. I am studying as well so I can get out of this pathetic rat race and start up on my own and have a remnant of pride left. Right now I am so exhausted my health is suffering severely, my temper is frayed but I am still going out to see my mates when I have finished job number two. Possibly the worst thing I could do... but I need to unwind. Neither job is enjoyable and I need some fun if only for half an hour each evening and I do not intend to lose all contact with the outside world. All I can say is neither pays well and I loathe both.

Until we end our fascination with bricks and mortar as an investment rather than a home; until we deny ourselves the third holiday of the year or a TV or computer in every room; until we admit that having two working parents causes harm to the children left behind in the house; until we finally can be satisfied and be prepared to pay for through higher taxes that public transport is an adequate replacement for two family cars and until we stop blaming everyone else for our own predicaments then we will need two incomes. We have made our beds so lie in them.
Charles, Singapore

What's the point in having two jobs when the government takes most of it in extra tax?!
Alan, UK

Life is about more than money

Brendan, UK/Australia
Yesterday my consultant radiologist was complaining bitterly that NHS consultant starting salary is only £52,000. The context was doing two jobs, NHS and private. Lots of MPs do several jobs, at least in part for money. I am personally too tired-out from my single job to do two. Also, life is about more than money.
Brendan, UK/Australia

I did have two jobs when I was saving for a deposit to buy a house. Now I have my house I'd never work two jobs again - it nearly killed me!
Deb, Manchester, England

I raised an eyebrow at the revelation that 84,000 teachers have two jobs, with nearly half of them teaching in their second job. This doesn't sit at all comfortably with teachers' claims that they are hopelessly overworked in their principal occupation. In fact one cannot avoid the inference that the reverse might be true. I wonder how many are pushing for a 35 hour week simply to leave more time available for their second job. As for myself, I don't have two jobs: I prefer to do one thing properly rather than dilute my input and energy between two. This is entirely different from situations where financial needs might dictate the necessity for extra income - but I don't accept that any teacher living responsibly within his/her means has such a problem.
Chris B, England

High house prices and rents reduce quality of life

Tom, UK
I think that the reason so many people need to work second jobs is due to the ridiculously inflated property market. When are we going to realise that high house prices and rents reduce the quality of life for most people in Britain?
Tom, UK

It's not so much that we expect a higher standard of living, it's just that life is much more complicated and expensive! To go for a simple drink with my friends, for example, means getting into town costs me £3.80 (public transport, with a journey time of an hour) followed by drinks of £3-4 each. A quiet drink therefore, takes me two hours travelling time and the best part of £20!

Nearly half of 84,000 teachers have a second job? It's no wonder they complain about having to do too many hours!
Jez, UK

It may never improve

Maria O' Shealy, England
It is a shame the way things have changed. In times gone by, the husband went out to work and brought in the money, one job, and that provided for the family. Unfortunately, and quite necessarily, the wife and husband have to work to provide for the family. This is not in order to better the standard of living but to just get by. Those on low salaries are particularly affected and have to work twice as hard as other couples just to make half what they may earn. Inconsistencies in pay throughout the country exacerbate this problem; it may never improve. Many women enjoyed the opportunity to do what they wanted to do and not have to work whilst their husbands provided for them, but they are no longer able to pursue their own interests because they have to go out to work to provide for the family. Let's hope this changes.
Maria O' Shealy, England

Surely a survey of the average hours worked per week would give a better indication of whether we are working harder? Just because someone chooses to do two part-time jobs instead of one full-time job doesn't necessarily mean they are working harder. Maybe we've just become more flexible in our approach to work.
Sarah, London, UK

I agree with Sarah, London, UK. Many people I know who hold two jobs are mothers and students. They choose to part-time at two different jobs in order to enjoy the benefits of flexible hours and schedules that fit their needs - purely a personal choice on their part. Isn't it time we stop the PC attitude and assume that adults know what they want and how to go about getting it, rather than stepping in to "fix" their lives for them?
Linda, USA

If people tried to make do rather than spend, spend, spend, this would never be the case

Gunter van der Taak, Netherlands
I think we are forced to take out more and more forms of employment now. Some jobs just don't provide the amount of money we need. We want more and more material things these days and we need the money to pay for them. I can't help thinking though, that if people tried to make do with what they had (as in the 1940s-1970s), rather than spend, spend, spend, this would never be the case. It happens here in the Netherlands and throughout Europe but particularly in France and England.
Gunter van der Taak, Netherlands

See also:

09 May 02 | Business
More UK workers have two jobs
08 May 02 | Business
House prices in renewed surge
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories