With over five million of the UK population in low income jobs, Britain stands out amid major Western and Northern European countries in retaining the largest percentage of low skilled and low paid jobs.
Research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that one in five employees are earning less than the living wage which is currently set at £9.15 in London and £7.85 for the rest of the UK.
Three areas of the UK that are notably affected by low pay are Dwyfor Meirionnydd in north Wales, Birmingham Northfield and Kingswood near Bristol. Over half of the working population in these locations are in low income jobs and are receiving less than the minimum living wage from their employers.
The percentage of low paid workers within these areas is particularly significant in comparison with the small percentage of those underpaid in the South East. Low pay in this part of Britain affects just 7.5 per cent of employees.
Amongst the lowest paid occupations in Britain are those that fall into the hospitality, retail and domestic sectors with 54 per cent of workers in these professions receiving a low wage. Waitresses and bar staff top the lowest paid list.
The living wage figures also show that women are disproportionately affected, in addition to those aged between 31-50, with one in three in low pay employment despite being in the prime of their working life.
Long term unemployment and a lack of qualifications, training or experience are factors that contribute to job seekers taking entry level and low paid jobs. This decision is taken in the context of a likely compromise to career progression and the risk of in-work poverty as their income fails to meet acceptable living standards.
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicates that low paid workers will find it more difficult to maintain stable employment. They will also experience greater difficulty in transferring to jobs that require specific skills and which provide professional progression and improved financial security.
Employers of those in low income roles are less likely to offer training and skill development opportunities. This ultimately means that workers are unable to progress within the company or maintain the appropriate skills for career development elsewhere.
The National Living Wage has previously been at the discretion of the employer, with only the National Minimum Wage being a legal requirement. This means that many employers choose not to pay employees the Living Wage.
From the 1st April, payment of the Living Wage will be a requirement and employees will benefit from a 50 pence per hour increase in addition to the National Minimum Wage for those aged 25 and over.
This change will be financially beneficial in the short term but steps must also be taken by employers to provide training and opportunities for progression, allowing low paid staff to work towards positive long term results.
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