November 22, 2016
One in seven UK employees commute over two hours or more each day. This represents an increase of nearly a third (31 percent) over the past five years, which claims the TUC, is due to a combination of low wages, high house/rental prices and the government’s lack of transport infrastructure spending, According to a new analysis by the union to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week, in 2015 3.7 million workers had daily commutes of two hours or longer – an increase of 900,000 since 2010 (2.8 million). In 2015 one in seven UK employees (14 percent) travelled two hours or more each day to and from work, compared to one in nine in 2010 (11 percent). UK workers spent 10 hours extra, on average, commuting in 2015 than they did in 2010. This is the equivalent of an extra 2.7 minutes per day. London (930,000) has the highest number of employees who make long commutes, followed by the South East (623,000) and the East of England (409,000); while workers in Northern Ireland (+57 percent) have experienced the biggest rise in long commuting, followed by the South East (+37 percent) and the West Midlands (+27 percent).
Although men still account for the majority (61 percent) of those who make work journeys of two hours or more, women (+35 percent) have experienced a sharper rise in long commuting since 2010 than men (+29 percent).
The TUC says the growth in long commutes in sectors like education (+46 percent) and health and social care (+26 percent), where high numbers of women work, may explain this rise.
Health and social workers (376,000), public administration and defence workers (320,000) and retail and wholesale workers (315,000) are the biggest groups commuting for two hours or more.
Finance and insurance staff (29.3 percent) are most likely to commute for two hours or more, followed by Mining and quarrying workers (28.9 percent) and information and communication workers (25.5 percent).
Workers travelling to work by motorcycle (+3 minutes) have seen their daily commute increase the most, followed by taxi-users (+2.8 minutes), cyclists (+2.6 minutes) motorists (+2.2 minutes) and rail commuters (+1 minute).
By contrast, commute times for those using buses (-1 minute) and the London underground (-5 minutes) have fallen.
The TUC argues that the increase in travelling times may be explained by stagnant wages combined with soaring rents and high house prices leaving many workers unable to move to areas closer to their jobs; and with a lack of investment in roads and railways increasing journey times. The UK is bottom of an OECD league table on transport infrastructure spending.
“None of us like spending ages getting to and from work. Long commutes eat into our family time and can be bad for our working lives too, said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.
“Employers cannot turn a blind eye to this problem. More home and flexible-working would allow people to cut their commutes and save money. But if we are to reduce the pain of traffic jams and train delays, ministers need to invest more in public transport and our roads. Next week’s Autumn Statement is the perfect opportunity to do this.”
Phil Flaxton, Chief Executive of Work Wise UK, an alliance that includes business, equalities, safety and trade union bodies said: “Long commutes have become a part of the UK’s working culture. The excessive time spent commuting is one of the main factors contributing to work-life balance problems.
“Not only is the amount of time commuting an issue, the 9 to 5 culture with its peak travel times generates congestion on railways, underground and road networks and as a consequence, increases stress for commuters.
“Clearly the government, public transport providers and employers must do more in order to address the major negative impact on the UK’s economy and lost productivity.”