In some parts of Britain, nearly half the jobs pay less than the living wage, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed today (1 April) to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the introduction of the minimum wage and the second week of the TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight which runs until Friday (4 April), with some events over the weekend.
TUC analysis of official figures from the House of Commons Library shows that nationally on average one in five jobs pays under the living wage – currently set at £8.80 in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK – but in some parliamentary constituencies nearly half the people working there earn less than this.
Across the UK, around five million people get paid less than the living wage. Kingswood near Bristol tops the list of living wage black spots with 48 per cent earning less than £7.65 an hour, followed by Chingford and Woodford Green in North East London (43.4 per cent), Harrow West in North West London (42.4 per cent) and Sefton Central on Merseyside (40.4 per cent).
In other parts of Britain a substantial number of workers also get paid less than the living wage. Nearly two in five people working in Dwyfor Meirionnydd in North Wales (39.9 per cent), Rhondda in South Wales (39.7 per cent), Blackpool South (39.3 per cent), West Lancashire (38.2 per cent), Bexleyheath and Crayford in South East London (38.2 per cent) and Wells in Somerset (38.1) receive less than £7.65 an hour.
For working women the picture is even more bleak. More than half of women working in two constituencies – Kingswood (56.1 per cent) and Bexleyheath and Crayford (51.3) per cent – take home less than the living wage. And around half the women working in Heywood and Middleton in the North West (49.7 per cent), East Yorkshire (48.6 per cent) and Cleethorpes (48.4 per cent) earn less than £7.65 an hour.
At the other end of the income scale, in some parts of the country – mostly in the South East – as few as five per cent of workers are paid under the living wage. Just 5.6 per cent of people working in Poplar and Limehouse (East London), 5.8 per cent in Runnymede and Weybridge (Surrey), 7.3 per cent in South Cambridgeshire and also 7.3 per cent in Islington South and Finsbury (North London) earn less than the living wage.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Extending the living wage is a vital way of tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty across Britain.
“Working families are experiencing the biggest pressure on their living standards since Victorian times. Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom and it’s costing our economy dear.
“The number of living wage employers is growing rapidly and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it – but government must show equal initiative. We need to see a far greater commitment to pay the living wage from government and employers, and modern wages councils which could set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more."
She concluded: “During Fair Pay Fortnight we’re asking workers to back our call to MPs to get all political parties to put decent pay at the top of their agendas in the run up to the election.”
* Fair Pay Fortnight: http://www.tuc.org.uk/events/fair-pay-fortnight