As unemployment continues to rise the need to reverse the trend becomes ever more pressing. For many, any job would be a welcome one, for financial reasons, but also to break a spell of long term unemployment which results in low levels of confidence.

But taking ‘any’ job increases the likelihood of skills under-utilisation; and according to a recent publication by The Work Foundation this is a particular problem in the UK, especially among low-wage workers.

The situation has developed as a result of both demand side factors (poor skills utilisation due to job design and corporate strategies) and the supply side issues (with skills gaps among the labour force) – but it’s the former that is the faster growing problem.

Although the short term benefits of finding a job are obvious and welcome, the long term implications of under-utilisation are a risk to the wellbeing of the individual, the performance of organisations and therefore the strength of the wider economy. For the individual, skills under-utilisation is often a result of organisational structure, with a sharp polarisation between high skilled and low skilled jobs. For the low skilled, this often manifests itself as a lack of autonomy and poor job conditions – two of the six key drivers of employee wellbeing.

At the higher level, better utilisation of skills could help to close the gap between the productivity levels of the UK and its competitor countries. Organisations that restrict an employee’s ability to utilise their full skill set are failing to take advantage of a considerable source of competitive advantage which already exists within the business.

In a month when firms like AstraZeneca and Nokia are announcing redundancies, and the likes of McDonalds and Starbucks are the ones increasing their workforces, this issue looks set to become increasingly relevant.

For a full exploration of the issues please see ‘The Skills Dilemma: Skills Under-Utilisation and Low-Wage Work’ produced for The Work Foundation by Jonny Wright and Paul Sissons.