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Death is tobacco companies’ business | Tanya Gold

Category : Business

You can’t blame tobacco firms for resisting plain packaging. But what’s the government’s excuse?

The coalition government acts as an agent for Big Tobacco, even as it auto-moralises. I do not think it is mad to call its actions murderous. It has pulled excellent anti-smoking legislation from the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, which would have forced the tobacco companies to use only plain packets, and chopped their one remaining marketing strategy entirely dedicated to cutting new smokers off at the knees. (Established smokers rarely change brands.) Potential smokers would have seen a dull, unfashionable box, illustrated with a photograph of gangrene or something equally hideous, rather than a glossy confection designed to mislead. Now the policy is ash and Big Tobacco is free to pursue its vocation of severely shortening the lives of one in two of its customers. And where the UK leads, the world follows; this is good news for tobacco’s markets elsewhere.

Could this be connected to Lynton Crosby, who will oversee the strategy for the 2015 election? He was the marketing man behind tobacco’s attempts to thwart plain packaging in Australia – although there, at least, he failed. Or does the government feel pressure from Ukip, some of whose members seem to think that smoking, along with misogyny, homophobia and racism, is patriotic? (I once watched a Ukip grandee rub a black girl’s hand on a platform and say, “Look, it doesn’t come off”). Of course Ukip backs smoking. It thrives on the rhetoric of the pub and assumes that because everyone smoked on D-Day, it was the smoking that won the war. The freedom to smoke is a freedom of sorts – and Nigel Farage smokes. This is like David Cameron legislating for morning coats; and if only Farage felt the same liberalism towards gay marriage.

Who else smokes these days? Children mostly, and poorer children more than anyone, and the numbers are rising. Two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18, and 39% before the age of 16; only half will manage to stop before it kills them, although most wish they could. Andrew Lansley, the former health secretary, acknowledged this in 2011 when the government was still mouthing anti-inequality bites. “Smoking rates are much higher in some social groups, including those with the lowest incomes,” he wrote. “These groups suffer the highest burden of smoking-related illness and death. Smoking is the single biggest cause of inequalities in death rates between the richest and poorest in our communities.” How true. Yet smoking is a stick to beat the poor with: that benefit claimants all smoke and watch Sky TV is one of the government’s favourite cliches. Perhaps now they see its use.

When representatives of Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International met the government this year, Imperial Tobacco threatened to pull its packaging manufacture from the UK even though plain packaging and no packaging are hardly the same thing; no one is suggesting cigarettes be delivered by elf. They insisted plain packaging would assist counterfeiters and smugglers. If this fascinates you, I suggest you watch British American Tobacco’s amusing and ostensibly racist promotional video Who’s In Control?, in which cartoon eastern European gangsters drool over the financial possibilities of regulation – although anti-counterfeiting measures can easily be incorporated into plain packets. Are these theoretical gangsters Bulgarian, or Romanian, is the obvious question. Elsewhere in Who’s In Control, the super-imposition of physical violence and drug abuse with regulation veers into paranoia.

We could muse further on these apocalyptic fantasies, but the tobacco companies will not publish their impact studies. They were burnt before, when a 2011 BAT report designed to thwart plain packaging in Australia was shown to be ruthlessly skewed and scientifically worthless. It is true that the exact impact of plain packaging is unknown, and will remain so while the tobacco companies so diligently oppose it. But the independent studies undertaken all agree – young people and women don’t like plain packets, and tobacco knows it. By its terror shall we know its desires.

I don’t blame the tobacco firms. Death is their business. When BAT says, after exhausting its arguments, that “We will take every action possible to protect our brands, the rights of our companies to compete as legitimate commercial businesses selling a legal product, and the interests of our shareholders”, I almost admire its dedication to cash. Yet the British government, theoretically dedicated to the health of its citizens, has a duty not to sink to lobbyists, even if Nigel Farage does smoke. It attacks the habits of the poor, but does nothing helpful. As ever with this government, hollow rhetoric will do.

Twitter: @tanyagold1

No 10 accused of ‘caving in’ to cigarette lobby as plain packs put on hold

Category : Business

Tobacco giant warned of loss of jobs in UK before packaging rules were dropped, and anti-smoking camp also cites possible fear of Ukip

Anti-smoking campaigners have accused the government of caving in to pressure from the tobacco lobby and running scared of Ukip after plans to enforce the sale of cigarettes in plain packs failed to make it into the Queen’s speech.

Minutes released by the Department of Health show that one of the industry’s leading players had told government officials that, if the move went through, it would source its packaging from abroad, resulting in “significant job losses.”

Cancer charities and health experts were expecting a bill to be introduced last week that would ban branded cigarette packaging, following a ban introduced in Australia last December. At least one health minister had been briefing that the bill would be in the Queen’s speech. But the bill was apparently put on hold at the last minute with the government saying it would be a distraction from its main legislative priorities.

Ukip, which enjoyed considerable success in last week’s elections, has positioned itself firmly on the side of smokers and there is a suspicion that the Tories scrapped the plan because they did not want to be seen as anti-smoking.

It has emerged that senior Department of Health officials held four key meetings with the industry’s leading players in January and February, when at least one of the tobacco giants spelled out to the government that its plan would result in thousands of jobs going abroad.

Department of Health minutes released last week reveal that Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International were each invited to make representations to the government, in which they attacked the plan and its impact on the UK economy.

Only the minutes of the meeting with Imperial have been released. They record that Imperial warned if plain packs were introduced it would source packaging from the Far East resulting “in significant job losses in the UK.”

The tobacco giant also outlined how its packaging research and development department supported small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK and argued that standard packs would “result in some of these being put out of business”.

It added that the plan would boost the illicit trade in cigarettes, which already costs the Treasury £3bn in unpaid duty and VAT a year. And it noted that 70,000 UK jobs rely on the tobacco supply chain, implying some of these would be threatened if the illicit market continued to grow.

When asked to hand over its assessment of the impact of the plan, Imperial refused, citing commercial sensitivity.

The decision to delay the introduction of plain packs is a major success for the tobacco lobby, which has run a ferocious campaign against the move. Cigarette makers fear that the loss of their branding will deprive them of their most powerful marketing weapon. The industry has backed a series of front campaign groups to make it appear that there is widespread opposition to the plan, a practice known in lobbying jargon as “astroturfing”. Many of the ideas were imported from Australia, where the tobacco giants fought a bitter but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to resist plain packs. Much of the Australian campaign was masterminded by the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, whose co-founder Lynton Crosby is spearheading the Tories’ 2015 election bid.

Crosby was federal director of the Liberal party in Australia when it accepted tobacco money. Crosby Textor in Australia was paid a retainer from BAT during the campaign against plain packs. Some anti-smoking campaigners are now questioning whether the decision to drop the plain packs bill was as a result of shifting allegiances at Westminster.

“It looks as if the noxious mix of rightwing Australian populism, as represented by Crosby and his lobbying firm, and English saloon bar reactionaries, as embodied by [Nigel] Farage and Ukip, may succeed in preventing this government from proceeding with standardised cigarette packs, despite their popularity with the public,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Action on Smoking and Health.

The decision to drop the plan will become a divisive issue for the coalition because the Liberal Democrats were strongly in favour of the measure, which will still be introduced in Scotland.

It is also a concern for the government’s own health adviser. “Our view is that plain packaging is one of a range of measures shown to be effective in reducing the amount of people taking up smoking,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, the government agency charged with helping people to live longer and more healthily.

A Department of Health spokeswoman denied that tobacco lobbying had been a factor in the decision to pull the bill. “These minutes simply reflect what the tobacco company said at the meeting, not the government’s view,” she said. “The government has an open mind on this issue, and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the evidence and the consultation responses.”

Smoking: the government’s cowardly surrender to the tobacco lobby | Observer editorial

Category : Business

Cigarette manufacturers won a reprieve that will endanger more lives

It has been a big week for tobacco. The success of Ukip, a party keen to repeal the ban on smoking in pubs, has given cigarette companies an influential ally, one that has being doing sterling work seeking EU subsidies for tobacco growers.

Then came the momentous decision to drop plans that would have forced cigarette companies to sell their products in plain packs, something that even the powerful tobacco lobby must have thought out of its reach a few months ago.

But a relentless lobbying campaign that saw the industry channel money to spurious front groups to attack the plan has paid dividends. Stitching together a coalition that included newsagents, ex-police chiefs, retailers and brand organisations, not to mention hundreds of thousands of the public who signed a petition, the lobby strived to show the plan was unwanted and unworkable. Dire warnings were made of small shops going to the wall and thousands of jobs going abroad. The Treasury was warned that plain packs would be easy to copy, providing a major fillip to the counterfeit (untaxed) cigarette manufacturers.

Similar arguments were made in Australia by a big tobacco-funded campaign masterminded by a lobbying firm run by David Cameron’s election guru, Lynton Crosby. But Australia’s government introduced plain packaging last December. So far, there is no evidence that the dire predictions made by the tobacco lobby have been realised.

The tobacco industry argues that there is no evidence that plain packs discourage young people from starting to smoke. But inspection of tobacco industry documents released as a result of lawsuits reveals that the industry has been preparing for the battle for at least a quarter of a century. It will deny it, but the tobacco industry understands how brands lure in young smokers. It needs this new generation to replace the older one that it is killing. The UK government has a mandate to improve the health of its citizens. Last week, it failed them.

Pensioners ‘should pay more tax’

Category : Business

Better-off older people should pay tax at the same rate as younger people on similar incomes, the Fabian Society think tank argues.

See the original post here: Pensioners ‘should pay more tax’

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An oddball and wealthy? Join the club | Carole Cadwalladr

Category : Business

You get all sorts on the Rich List. Even some people who have actually earned their money

So, here it comes again: the annual roll call of freaks, weirdos, narcissists, megalomaniacs and sufferers of various antisocial personality disorders, otherwise known as the Rich List, published by another newspaper. There’s the odd genuinely impressive captain of industry, I grant you. And then there’s Simon Cowell.

But then all the greats are there: Richard Desmond, Philip Green, Lord Ashcroft, Richard Branson, Roman Abramovich, Alan Sugar, Duncan Bannatyne and Mark Thatcher. For if evidence were needed that wealth accrues only to the very brightest and the best, a quick perusal of the list will demonstrate that it is still needed.

In fact, the rundown of the 1,000 wealthiest individuals in Britain isn’t just your regular common-or-garden annual salivating over the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This is the Rich List’s silver jubilee, the 25th anniversary of the very first list. Or, to put it another way, this prurient, voyeuristic, possibly not entirely accurate celebration of the sometimes dubiously acquired wealth of Britain’s uppermost class has been going on now for a quarter of a century.

As sport goes, ogling the riches of an increasingly global super-elite who have taken up residence on Britain’s tax-lite, oligarch-friendly shores, the remnants of a so-called “aristocracy” still cashing in on land and assets they were gifted centuries ago, and a middling collection of chancers, moneymen, over-entitled divorcees, sublebrity entertainers and ageing rockers is a pretty dubious way to pass one’s time. Particularly given the subtext that there is something to admire or envy about a collection of people whom one might describe, if one was trying to be polite and family-friendly, as not necessarily individuals one might want to bump into down a dark alley.

It is, on most levels, a ridiculous and largely pointless parade of wealth for wealth’s sake, with the slimmest of claims to any sort of veracity. But as speculative figures go, you can compare them with some equally speculative figures from 25 years ago and come to various depressing conclusions.

The BBC points out that when the first list was published on 2 April 1989, it was presented as an indictment of Thatcherism. After 10 years of Thatcher in power, the list “grimly illustrated” the “very limited success of [her] revolution” because the original list was dominated by the landed classes; it contained 11 dukes, six marquesses, 14 earls and nine viscounts. Philip Beresford, the list’s author, told the BBC that when he started, roughly two-thirds of the list were people who had inherited their wealth, whereas “today approaching 80% are self-made and that’s really a legacy of the Thatcher years”.

The beautiful thing about this is how handsomely individuals on the list have repaid the favour. On Friday, the Guardian detailed how some of the richest hedgies on this year’s list also happen to be major Conservative donors. But then, when you’re so rich that you’re forced to spend your wealth building a £130,000 Palladian hen house – as Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management, has recently (knocking Sir Peter Viggers’s £1,645 duck house into a cocked hat) – you might as well splash it around in the vicinity of the party that this year, in the midst of the most biting austerity measures in living memory, cut the top rate of tax.

Nor, then, is it especially surprising that of the 10 most highly placed lords on the list, eight are registered political donors. What? You think you get to be that rich by chance?

But then, for all that Beresford sings the praises of a new cadre of “self-made” billionaires, it’s not quite as simple as that. In fact, the dukes and earls and viscounts are still there and doing quite nicely if you don’t mind. The Duke of Westminster was in the top 10 in 1989. He still is. But then there’s a clue in the title: “Westminster”? It’s a borough. Somewhere near the middle of London. He owns vast swaths of it. James Goldsmith was number 10 in the original list, worth £750m then, and while his son and heir, Zac, has done his best to piss it up a wall, losing £20m in his 2010 divorce, he and his mother had managed to hang on to £280m of it (as of last year’s list). Which is not bad going for having had the foresight and talent to be born.

The greatest change, though, is the emergence of London as a sort of Center Parcs for the global elite. We have the family-friendly facilities that oligarchs demand (Eton, Harrow and the ability to confer Little Lord Fauntleroy accents on even the most challenging offspring), and instead of water slides, there’s always Harrods. But then, that’s the wonderful thing about our super-light touch approach to non-dom taxation (generally, we don’t bother).

A lot has been written about the new caste of global super-rich who walk among us. And yet not nearly enough, because these aren’t funny, foreign visitors who add to the nation’s gaiety and whose staggering wealth is simply there to be pored over and ogled at. Their wealth has distorted and continues to distort our entire society. Their effect on London’s housing market has

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Co-operative skills: what are they and why do we need them?

Category : Business

A co-operative development worker explains how to deal with some common skill shortages

Meetings that never seem to end or dissolve into frequent arguments; members leaving; frequent disputes; difficulty in retaining people on your board or management committee.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you may have a co-operative skills deficit.

What do I mean by co-operative skills? When I explain it to people I often use the analogy of a car. You go to the showroom, you are shown all these amazing vehicles, you choose the one you like the look of and, importantly, one that will meet your needs – whether that be off-road, commercial vehicle or zippy runner for about town. It’s only when you drive it away from the forecourt that you realise you’ve never driven a car before and never had any proper lessons.

Trying to manage a co-operative without members possessing co-operative skills can be like trying to drive a car without ever learning to drive – with the added complication of several of you trying to drive at once. Co-operative skills could be described as the understanding of how to work effectively with other people on an equal basis towards commonly held aims and objectives.

Legal structures and governance systems used by co-operatives are a technology. Like all technologies, you need to understand it to be able to use it effectively. I’ve heard people dismiss this approach, saying that it is just a governance issue and that the rules or articles of association are the “manual” but even the best governance framework or member handbook may not unlock the base level skills needed to interact with other people to achieve mutual benefit and put the “manual” into practice.

Some technology – such as a smartphone – is iterative and application can be learned by experience or through use. Like using a smartphone, co-operative skills can be learned through trial and error – and co-operating is a natural human behaviour with psychological and emotional benefits. The problem we face is that a certain amount of “relearning” may be required. People are taught at school to compete, have hierarchical approaches to work and management imposed on them, and in the schoolyard or workplace they have been taught to use power play to achieve individual success at all costs over mutual benefit.

Common skill shortages I have noticed include:

Communication skills – understanding communication as a two-way process, listening skills, assertiveness. A building block for all co-operative skills. Vital for good meetings and to negotiate with other members. Communication skills also provide a boost to the day-to-day running of your co-operative in areas such as customer care and marketing.

Meeting and decision making skills – different ways to reach decisions, how to chair a meeting and how to participate. Speaking as chair of a co-operative, even the best chairing techniques require all participants to share responsibility for helping the meeting run smoothly.

How to deal with conflict – not just conflict resolution but techniques such as principled negotiation which encourage and value disagreement as a means to producing the best outcome for your co-op.

Team working – recognising individual roles, behaviours and skills; techniques for galvanising your team around common goals.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some well established co-operatives whose members developed these skills over time through trial and error or with the assistance of other co-operatives and co-operative development bodies. However, each time a new member joins the co-operative the newbie also needs these skills – not only to thrive as an individual member but also for the whole co-operative to continue to function effectively. I’ve noticed that in startup co-operatives, those with good co-operative skills have progressed more quickly and been better equipped to deal with the hardships that face any startup business.

I believe that for co-ops at all stages of development, investing in the co-operative skills of their members pays dividends: time is spent running the business effectively and generating profits, not dealing with internecine strife; the business is managed more effectively; mutual needs of all members can be met, and members who add to the co-op’s diversity are retained by enabling them to participate.

Many co-operatives – including my own, Co-operantics – host ideas, tools and tips on their websites to encourage co-ops to carry out a bit of DIY before calling in the experts. I’d like to see a time when every co-operative has co-operative skills as a standard item in their training or human resources development plan.

Nathan Brown is an experienced co-operative development worker and member of Co-operantics, a co-operative development body.

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Social intrapreneurs: the changemakers working inside companies

Category : Business

The League of Intrapreneurs awards highlighted growing impact of entrepreneurs creating change from within organisations

A social entrepreneur, setting up his or her own enterprise from scratch, certainly faces daunting challenges, from financing to marketing. However, the degree of freedom afforded to social entrepreneurs is second to none. They don’t have to operate within complex, established networks, win over colleagues or take risks that – even if successful – might not generate extra revenue for the business.

Conversely, to operate as a social entrepreneur within an established profit-making organisation often requires getting management to treat you, and your definition of success, differently. Not only that but the job descriptions for the roles many of these people want simply don’t exist: you have to create your own job. Again, it’s not easy and it takes a degree of chutzpah bordering on the disruptive. Not for nothing are such people sometimes better referred to as troublemakers. But I prefer to call them “changemakers” – these are social intrapreneurs.

In my own case, I run an organisation called Accenture Development Partnerships, which I set up 10 years ago to bring Accenture’s services within the reach of NGOs and partners in developing countries. Staff take a salary reduction, we’re not-for-profit but we’re not-for-loss. But this is not CSR. Not a big deal you might think? Hardly revolutionary?

But you’d be missing the point. I believe that small changes can set off chain reactions, especially when large organisations with a lot of influence are concerned. Last week, at the inaugural League of Intrapreneurs Awards hosted by Ashoka Changemakers to mark the announcement of the winners, we heard that these small changes are heralding a quiet revolution.

Take Graham Simpson, from GSK, as an example of last week’s winners. Simpson has a PhD in chemistry and is an extremely busy research scientist. But while on a six-month placement in Kenya he was struck by how many people there die from easily treatable diseases mainly through the lack of effective diagnosis. So he got in touch with the head of research and development at GSK and pitched the idea of developing cheap, yet commercial, diagnostics kits that could be used by often untrained health workers in rural villages, sometimes miles from hospitals. GSK is now working with John Hopkins University to develop the kits.

Meanwhile, Sacha Carina van Ginhoven is interested in how satellite technology might solve a problem she came across when talking to a friend who was living in a slum in Kibera, India. Millions of small businesses exist in slums worldwide but few have formal addresses, making it difficult to send and receive goods. So Van Ginhoven and her colleagues from TNT Express collaborated with slum residents to study existing supply chains. Results showed that the main challenges lay in recognising locations and enabling secure payments. But these could be overcome by targeting mobile phones. As a result, TNT Express developed a solution for slum deliveries. Working under the umbrella of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), TNT Express worked with Vodafone to explore how best to merge logistics with telecommunications.

These two examples share some aspects: firstly, many of the people involved had the specialist knowledge to identify the solution to a problem that had been brought home to them personally. The second was that many of them had “air-cover” in the shape of senior management in their respective organisations. This is something that Professor David Grayson, at the Doughty Centre at Canfield University, calls the “godfather” effect.

Ideas do not necessarily have to originate with chief executives but it is important to the success of a programme that senior leadership buys in from an early stage. It was particularly pleasing therefore that both Sir Richard Branson and GSK’s Sir Andrew Witty sent personal messages of support to the finalists before the awards.

The last similarity, though, is perhaps the most obvious: sheer hard work. All the finalists admitted that, especially in the early stages, their intrapreneurship had to be squeezed in after hours or on weekends. There is probably little to be done about this.

Part of the point of intrapreneurship that it’s not divorced from the intrapreneur’s core job. Even so, with expertise, senior support and hard work there is no reason why this quiet revolution can’t change the way we think about development and its catalysts.

Gib Bulloch is founder and executive director at Accenture Development Partnerships. Her Tedx talk “Be the change you want to see in your company” can be viewed here.

Full list of finalists for League of Intrapreneurs competition

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Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist: ‘We’re trying to buy time for the world to wake up’

Category : Business

You’ve probably never heard of him, and for years Jeremy Grantham liked it that way. But now the man who made billions by predicting every recent financial crisis is speaking out

One icy morning in February, a train pulled into Washington DC. It was loaded with environmentalists planning to handcuff themselves to the gates of the White House, in protest at the building of a 3,500km oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Amid the hundreds of placard-carrying protesters stood a somewhat incongruous figure in a suit – Jeremy Grantham, a 74-year-old fund manager. “What we are trying to do is buy time,” he told reporters. “Buy time for the world to wake up.”

Grantham – who occupies a legendary place in the world of finance for predicting all the major stock market bubbles of recent decades (and doing very well in the process) – had decided, after 15 years of low-key environmental philanthropy, to, as he puts it, “walk the walk”.

“I was committed to getting arrested,” says Grantham, a tall, slight man, as he looks out across the City from his

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Work doesn’t pay for multi-part-time employees

Category : Business

On paper the number of people in work has risen. But many of these jobs are part time, poorly paid and insecure

They’re the forgotten victims of Britain’s long recession. The individuals and families who have lost well-paid work, but figure only briefly in the unemployment figures as they patch together poorly paid part-time work while struggling to cope with a collapse in their living standards.

Sophie Gaskin worked for 13 years as a forensic scientist then, as a trainer, she taught government agencies and police forces how to gather valuable evidence. She was made redundant in October 2010, shortly before the government closed the Forensic Science Service after it ran up losses of £2m a month – a decision later condemned by the House of Commons science and technology committee for the impact it may have on the criminal justice system.

But for Sophie, it has been personally devastating. After specialising in a niche area, she has found it impossible to find work elsewhere using her scientific skills.

Her savings were initially too high to qualify for welfare benefits. “I couldn’t claim until I was down to the minimum £5,000. Then it took six months to get any money, by which time I was down to my last few pounds,” she says. She has, though, qualified for housing benefit on the flat she rents in Surrey.

This single, fortysomething, has only been able to find part-time admin work paying £8 an hour, and is desperately struggling to make ends meet. “There’s no possibility of going full time and, even if I could, I’d lose my housing benefit. On such a low wage I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent,” she says.

Gaskin has been helped by her union, Prospect, which has provided training and advice, as well as four days of paid work as a trainer.

However, that income resulted in the loss of jobseeker’s allowance.

She goes to the supermarket in the evenings, looking for sell-by date reductions. “I buy value brands and shop late to pick up cut-price food. I get fruit and vegetables from my mother and bake my own bread,” she says.

She’s resilient but is clearly saddened by the loss of her job: “I am upset that forensic evidence is being overlooked. That could lead to miscarriages of justice.”

Low-paid part-time work and self-employment have mushroomed in Britain since 2007 as laid-off workers battle to maintain their living standards. Many economists have been puzzled at the lower-than-expected levels of unemployment, given the scale of the fall in GDP since 2008.

The jobless total jumped from 1.6m in early 2008 to a peak of 2.7m in 2011, but has since dropped to 2.5m. Meanwhile, those in work has risen to a record high of 29.73m, a result of population growth and what the government hails as a dramatic increase in private-sector employment.

But the majority of the newly-created jobs are in the service sector, many part-time, poorly paid and insecure. Even for these, critics say, there is competition from an army of underemployed workers seeking longer hours. A recent poll conducted by IPSOS Mori found that 40% of people in work (and 65% of 18 to 24-year-olds) said they would take on more hours if they could.

A report from the Resolution Foundation on the “squeezed middle” found that low-to-middle-income workers account for 70% of the overall growth in self-employment. Increasing food inflation means families within this group have to pay a £280 cost of living “premium” as they spend a greater share of their budget on essentials (which have risen faster than other goods) compared with higher-income households.

Lower income households are also bearing the brunt of unavoidable increases in the cost of food and utilities, such as gas, electricity and water.

Andrea Kennedy, 48, a divorced mother of two in Liverpool, is typical of those surviving on casual contracts with no job security and sometimes weeks or even months without work.

Until two-and-a-half years ago she was just about managing to cope taking short-term, six-month and 12-month contracts as a full-time administrator. “It was financially hard work, as I was often out of work for up to a month between contracts,” she says.

After yet another contract ended prematurely, she has turned to cleaning to earn a full-time income. “Until recently I’ve been doing three or four part-time cleaning jobs on the minimum wage of £6.19 an hour in order to make ends meet. However, eight weeks ago my hours were cut as one company lost a contract. Now I only have 21 hours.”

Although she owns her two-bed house, she made the mistake of taking out a £15,000 secured loan on her home in 2006 and is still struggling to pay the debt, which has grown to £24,000. “My mortgage is £251 a month and £223 on the loan. At best, I’m only earning £775 a month and, because my working hours fluctuate, I can’t claim tax credits when they drop below 30 hours a week.”

She admits her standard of living has been hit hard. “I’ve had to sell my car, cut back on food and can’t afford a computer or phone. There are no nights out and a cup of coffee is the only treat I can afford.”

She is now considering moving out of Liverpool and gets by with the help of friends and Citizens Advice.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that operates food banks in the UK, says it is not just the homeless, or those living entirely on benefits, who are using its services, but also the working poor, whose incomes have plummeted.

“We’re opening three new foodbanks every week to try and help local communities meet the growing need for emergency food,” says its executive chairman Chris Mould. “People are often surprised that less than 5% of foodbank clients are homeless but many of the 300,000 people we’re helping are low-income working families.”

Moreover, many workers are also getting into debt. National Debtline is a free national telephone helpline for people with debt problems in England, Scotland and Wales. Its spokesperson, Paul Crayston, says: “Almost half of the 234,000 calls in 2012 were from people in employment.”

But there are some who, having gone through the trauma of losing their job and taking a cut from a relatively high income, are now happier.

Maisie Collin, 36, lives in London with her 18-month-old son and her fiancé. Before the recession she worked on a freelance basis in the youth and family care sector, with an income of around £55,000.

After the downturn she took a job as a director of a charity, earning £40,000. In 2011 it was dissolved and she was made redundant while pregnant.

Maisie was unemployed for 18 months, not claiming benefits. She re-mortgaged her flat and used the money to retrain as an Ofsted-registered childcare provider and turn her flat into a nursery. She now runs a daycare centre from home part time, paying two apprentices from a local college to help. She also does part-time life coaching and massage therapy, as well as voluntary work with young people and families. She estimates her new income at between £33,000 and £35,000.

“I’ve got no security, and I have to work really hard. But I love the variety. My lifestyle had to change: everything stopped – I’d eat out quite a lot before, but we couldn’t do that, so I ate differently. I reduced going out.

“It can really affect everything, from your lifestyle to your friendships and relationships with your family. I had to create my own work, and I do earn a lot less than I used to and have a child to support, but I am happier now.”