[ uhn-der-em-ploid ]
/ ˌʌn dər ɛmˈplɔɪd /
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employed at a job that does not fully use one's skills or abilities.
employed only part-time when one is available for full-time work.
not utilized fully.
underemployed workers collectively.
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Origin of underemployed

First recorded in 1905–10; under- + employ + -ed2

OTHER WORDS FROM underemployed

un·der·em·ploy·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does underemployed mean?

Underemployed means employed only part-time when one wants to be working full-time.

Someone who’s underemployed has a job and wants to be working more but can’t, often due to a lack of available jobs.

The term is often used in the same context as unemployed, which means not employed at all. Both underemployed and unemployed are sometimes used to refer to such people collectively, as in These programs are intended to help the unemployed and underemployed. 

Less commonly, underemployed refers not to working less than desired but to not being used to one’s full potential or abilities. People who are overqualified for a job sometimes end up underemployed in this way.

The state of being underemployed is underemployment.

The verb employ also means to use, and underemployed can be used to describe something that’s not used as much as it should be, as in an underemployed strategy. Synonyms for this sense of the word are underused and underutilized.

Example: The unemployment rate can be misleading if it doesn’t take into account the many people who are underemployed.

Where does underemployed come from?

The first records of the word underemployed come from the early 1900s. Its base word, employ, ultimately derives from the Latin implicāre, meaning “to engage” (the word engage is sometimes used to mean “to hire” or “to employ”).

When workers can’t find full-time employment, they often try to string together several part-time, freelance, or temporary gigs to try to make ends meet. But in many cases, these jobs still don’t add up to full-time work, and workers are still underemployed.

The opposite of being underemployed is being overemployed, which is an informal term to describe someone who’s overworked in their full-time job or who has more work than they can handle.

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What are some other forms related to underemployed?

  • underemployment (noun)
  • employed (adjective)

What are some words that share a root or word element with underemployed

What are some words that often get used in discussing underemployed?

How is underemployed used in real life?

Being underemployed is considered negative, but the term itself is typically used in a neutral way.



Try using underemployed!

Is underemployed used correctly in the following sentence?

I’ve been feeling underemployed, so I’m going to ask my boss for some more challenging projects.

How to use underemployed in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for underemployed

/ (ˌʌndərɪmˈplɔɪd) /

not fully or adequately employed

Derived forms of underemployed

underemployment, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012