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The number of employees with daily commutes of two hours or more has shot up by nearly a third (31%) over the past five years, according to new analysis published today (Friday) by the TUC to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week.

The number of employees with daily commutes of two hours or more has shot up by nearly a third (31%) over the past five years, according to new analysis published today (Friday) by the TUC to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week.

The analysis shows that 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%) travelled two hours or more each day to and from work, compared to one in nine in 2010 (11%).

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.

Women have experienced the biggest rise in long commuting:
Men still account for the majority (61%) of those who make work journeys of two hours or more. However, women (+35%) have experienced a sharper rise in long commuting since 2010 than men (+29%).

The TUC says the growth in long commutes in sectors like education (+46%) and health and social care (+26%), 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%) are most likely to commute for two hours or more, followed by Mining and quarrying workers (28.9%) and information and communication workers (25.5%).

Long commuting has shot up most in Northern Ireland:
Workers in Northern Ireland (+57%) have experienced the biggest rise in long commuting, followed by the South East (+37%) and the West Midlands (+27%).

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).

Motorcyclists have seen their work commutes increase the most:
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 believes 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;
  • the lack of investment in roads and railways increasing journey times. The UK is bottom of an OECD league table on transport infrastructure spending.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“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.

“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.”

Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton 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.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
Source: Unpublished figures from the ONS Labour Force Survey (October - December quarter), accessed via the UK Data Archive. Employees in main job only. Figures exclude employees working from home.

Number of workers with daily commute times over two hours

 

2015

Increase on 2010

% change on 2010

Men

2,295,206

511,973

28.7%

Women

1,446,736

373,926

34.9%

All employees

3,741,943,

885,899

31.0%

Number of workers with daily commute time over two hours by sector

 Employment sector

2015

% of workers commuting >2hrs

% change on 2010

A  Agriculture, forestry and fishing

9,444

0.5%

33.8%

B  Mining and quarrying

37,441

28.9%

61.0%

C  Manufacturing

260,213

9.9%

7.3%

D  Electricity, gas, air cond supply

36,720

20.1%

29.3%

E  Water supply, sewerage, waste

28,996

13.6%

69.9%

F  Construction

245,983

18.9%

17.7%

G  Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles

315,230

8.3%

22.1%

H  Transport and storage

168,392

12.6%

15.4%

I  Accommodation and food services

119,125

8.0%

25.7%

J  Information and communication

266,472

25.5%

34.7%

K  Financial and insurance activities

288,073

29.3%

2.4%

L  Real estate activities

42,325

15.0%

42.2%

M  Prof, scientific, technical activity

312,924

19.5%

12.9%

N  Admin and support services

178,900

19.9%

8.7%

O  Public admin and defence

320,155

17.5%

13.7%

P  Education

274,097

9.0%

46.1%

Q  Health and social work

376,322

9.9%

26.4%

R  Arts, entertainment and recreation

70,944

11.1%

21.8%

S  Other service activities

72,725

13.9%

72.5%

Total

3,440,844

14.0%

20.5%

Number of workers with daily commute times over two hours by region or nation

 UK regions and nations

2015

Increase on 2010

% change on 2010

North East

85,335

14,649

20.7%

North West

286,575

47,016

19.6%

Yorkshire and Humberside

180,246

18,949

11.7%

East Midlands

135,213

-9,460

-6.5%

West Midlands

235,322

48,033

25.6%

East of England

409,284

79,550

24.1%

London

930,612

136,539

17.2%

South East

623,311

167,566

36.8%

South West

171,435

13,499

8.5%

Wales

86,337

18,346

27.0%

Scotland

244,315

30,920

14.5%

Northern Ireland

52,851

19,193

57.0%

Total

3,440,844

584,800

20.5%

Daily commuting time for employees by type of transport 2010-2015                                    

Usual method of travel to work

Number of employees commuting 2015 (thousands)

increase since 2010 (thousands)

Length of average daily two-way commute 2015 (mins)

Change  since 2010 (mins)

Car, van, minibus, works van

16,592

+437

51.4

+2.2

Motorbike, moped, scooter

193

+4

47.0

+3.0

Bicycle

887

+140

42.4

+2.6

Bus, coach, private bus

1,977

+158

76.8

-1.0

Taxi

71

+5

37.4

+2.8

Railway train

1,449

+245

130.4

+1.0

Underground train, light railway, tram

921

+171

95.4

-5.2

Walk

2,808

+24

29.6

+1.2

Other method

83

-

140.2

+26.0

Total

24,985

+1,185

57.1

+2.7

- Commute Smart Week 2016 is a campaign by Work Wise UK, which is an alliance that includes business, equalities, safety and trade union bodies. For more information see www.workwiseuk.org/commute-smart-week-2016/

- Yearly commute calculation: The calculation for the yearly commute time increase assumes a 5 day week and a 45 week working year. The minimum statutory annual leave entitlement is 5.6 weeks. We have also assumed 1.4 weeks of absence for sickness or other reasons.

- Technical note: Because the Labour Force Survey always falls short of its interview target, the ONS usually compensate with data from the previous quarter. As the relevant questions were not asked in the previous quarter, the data has been increased on a pro-rata basis to match the full population.

- All TUC press releases can be found at tuc.org.uk/media
- TUC Press Office on Twitter: @tucnews