Monday, June 17, 2024

Almost 2.2 million women in the UK are struggling to make ends meet in low paid jobs

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  • Almost 2.2 million women earn less than the real Living Wage, compared to almost 1.5 million men.  

  • 6 in 10 low paid jobs (59.5%) are held by women.  

  • East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber are the regions with the highest proportion of women in low paid jobs.  

  • Female workers are around twice as likely as male workers to report having no money left over once essentials are paid for (23% of women, and 12% of men). 

  • The real Living Wage is the only wage rate based on the cost of living and is paid voluntarily by over 14,000 businesses across the UK. 

According to analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the Living Wage Foundation, almost 2.2 million jobs held by women (15.4% of jobs held by women) are paid below the real Living Wage. In comparison, 1.5 million jobs held by men (10.4% of jobs held by men) are paid below the real Living Wage. Almost 6 in 10 (59.5%) jobs that are paid below the real Living Wage are held by women. 

The proportion and number of women working in lower paid jobs has slightly increased from the year before. In 2022 just over 2 million jobs held by women (2,086,000 jobs) were paid less than the real Living Wage, which accounted for 14.7% of all jobs held by women. In 2022, 1 in 10 jobs held by men were earning below the real Living Wage (1,433,000 jobs). 

The analysis by the Living Wage Foundation uses the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings, covering the period April 2022 to April 2023.  

Women in part-time jobs are bearing the brunt of low pay, as the number of part-time jobs below the real Living Wage held by women is more than twice the number of part-time jobs held by men (1.4 million part-time low paid jobs held by women and 656,000 jobs held by men). According to the analysis, part-time jobs are much more likely to be lower paid, with 28.3% of part-time jobs paying below the real Living Wage compared to 7.5% of full-time jobs.  

The real Living Wage is a voluntary wage rate set by the Living Wage Foundation. It is the only wage rate based on the cost of living, and currently stands at £12 across the UK and £13.15 in London. There are over 14,000 accredited Living Wage employers across the UK who voluntarily pay their staff the higher wage, including Everton FC, IKEA, LUSH and Aviva.   

The East Midlands is the region with the biggest gender difference when it comes to low paid jobs – 2 in 10 jobs held by women are low paid (191,000 jobs), compared to 1 in 10 jobs held by men being low paid (108,000 jobs). Closely followed by Yorkshire and the Humber, where 19% of jobs held by women are low paid – 197,000 jobs – and 11% of jobs held by men are low paid- 117 ,000 jobs).  

Women’s experiences of life on low pay 

This analysis follows research by the Living Wage Foundation, which paints an unsettling picture of women’s experiences of life on low pay. 

In August 2023 over half of female workers (58%) reported that they were worse off than they were in the previous year due to financial constraints, compared to 43% of male workers. Female workers were also around twice as likely as male workers to report having no money left over once essentials are paid for (23% of women reported this, compared to 12% of men). 4 in 10 of the female workers (40%) had increased their use of foodbanks over the past year, whereas just over a quarter of male workers (28%) had increased their use of foodbanks. 

Unsurprisingly, female workers are more likely to be negatively impacted by their pay than men when it comes to their mental health – 6 in 10 female workers said their pay negatively impacted their levels of anxiety, while under half male workers (48%) said they were impacted by this.  

Overall, over half of female workers (55%) said their level of pay was negatively impacting their quality of life, compared to under half of male workers (46%). 

This data was collected through analysis, by the Living Wage Foundation, of a Survation survey which took place in August 2023 and asked women to reflect on their experiences over the 12 months prior. 2,010 workers, who earn below the real Living Wage, took part in the survey. 

Summer Scholes, an employee at Newington Fish Bar in Kent, was struggling to make ends meet working for less than the real Living Wage. Summer now works for an accredited Living Wage Employer. Summer said: 

“Last summer I spent 7 days a week on low pay trying to pay my bills, leaving me unable to buy many essentials throughout the month. However, this year whilst being paid by a real Living Wage employer I have been able to pay my bills, get the essentials I need and save some for my future studies. Above all I feel I’m a valued member of the team.”   

Katherine Chapman, Director at the Living Wage Foundation, said: 

“This analysis highlights the stark reality of an undeniable truth – millions of women are trapped in in low paid work and making up the bulk of low paying industries like health and social care. This isn’t something we should just accept. 

 Everyone should earn a wage based on the cost of living, but today’s research shows that low pay is a gendered issue.  

This International Women’s Day we want to celebrate the 14,000 employers who are accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. By committing to always pay a real Living Wage, they ensure that none of their staff are trapped in low pay and struggling to make ends meet. 

When it comes to addressing gender inequality one action employers can take is to join the Living Wage movement.” 

Rebecca Honeywell-Ward started Honeywell Bakes in 2012, an artisan bakery based in East Midlands – the region with the highest proportion of women in lower paid jobs. Honeywell Bakes pays their staff members at least the real Living Wage and is an accredited real Living Wage Employer. Rebecca said: 

“It is well documented that women are paid less than men. As an all women team, this made it even more important to Honeywell Bakes that we paid the real Living Wage as a minimum to our team.  Paying the real Living Wage means that we know that our team are paid enough to actually live on.” 

Notes:

The statistics above are found in the ‘Employee jobs paid below the Living Wage: 2023’ report by the Living Wage Foundation: https://www.livingwage.org.uk/sites/default/files/2024-02/Employee%20Jobs%20Below%20The%20Living%20Wage_V7.pdf  

This is an analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings, covering the period April 2022 to April 2023. 

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