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2 million women are paid below the living wage

OVER 2 MILLION WOMEN IN THE UK EARN BELOW THE REAL LIVING WAGE

New research from the Living Wage Foundation shows that women are more likely to be struggling with the cost-of-living crisis than men.    

  • 14% of women (over 2 million) who are in work are paid below the real Living Wage, compared to 9% of men (1.4 million).[1] 
  • Women in shift work are also more likely to be on a zero-hour contract than men in shift work (13 vs 9%). They are also less likely to receive payment when shifts are cancelled: 27% of women (compared to 17% of men) said they were paid nothing when shifts are cancelled. [2]  
  • The real Living Wage is currently set at £10.90 in the UK and a higher rate of £11.95 in London. It is voluntarily paid by over 12,000 businesses across the UK including LUSH, Burberry, Aviva, Everton FC and thousands of small-to-medium-sized businesses.  

According to the Living Wage Foundation, over 2 million women (that’s 14% of all women) in work are paid below the real Living Wage, compared to 1.4 million (9%) of men. That’s over half a million more women workers earning below the real Living Wage compared to men. As a result, jobs held by women account for almost 60% of all jobs paid below the real Living Wage. [1]  

In addition, the Living Wage Foundation’s research shows that women (34%) are less likely to have regular office hours than men (46%). Women in shift work are also more likely to be on a zero-hours contract with 13% of women currently working on a zero-hours contract compared to men in shift work (9%). According to the research, women are also less likely to receive payment when shifts are cancelled: 27% of women said they were paid nothing when shifts were cancelled, compared to 17% of men. [2]   

Life on Low Pay  
The Living Wage Foundation has also captured the attitudes of low-paid female workers on their pay and cost of living crisis. [3]

  • 75% of women, compared to 65% of men, felt their pay negatively impacted their levels of anxiety 
  • 72% of women, compared to 66% of men, said that their pay negatively affected their quality of life  

When compared to men, women were more likely to be negatively affected by low pay than their male counterparts: 

  • 82% of women, compared to 73% of men, agreed that they have had to make further cutbacks if they do not receive a pay rise in line with inflation over the next 12 months.  
  • 80% of low-paid women, compared to 75% of men, agree that the cost-of-living crisis is the most difficult financial period they have ever experienced  
  • 80% of women, compared to 71% of men, agree that being on low pay during the cost-of-living crisis has made it impossible to meet basic living costs.  

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Our research demonstrates the  reality that millions of women in the UK – often cleaners, catering staff and care workers – are more likely to be trapped in low-paying, insecure and precarious jobs.  

This year’s International Women’s Day 2023 is focused on equity - the sticky floor of low pay and precarious work is holding women back, true equity needs to start with a real Living Wage.   

It has been heartening to see record levels of employers signing up the real Living Wage and Living Hours in this past year. We’re encouraging all businesses who can to join our network of 12,000 Living Wage employers.”  

Jenny Baskerville, Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at KPMG UK and Chair of the Living Wage Advisory Council, said: “We’ve certainly come a long way in tackling low pay in the UK, but today’s statistics show there is still more to be done. This International Women’s Day, the 2 million women in the UK who are earning below the real Living Wage must be front of mind.   

“Over 12,000 businesses across the UK are paying the real Living Wage, and it’s never been more vital for others to follow in their footsteps given the economic climate. Paying a real Living Wage isn’t just the right thing to do, but businesses can also benefit from improved recruitment and retention, improved staff morale, rising service standards, as well as increased productivity. When we collectively work to ensure that good work is at the heart of the labour market, we will all benefit from a stronger, more compassionate and equal society.” 

There are now over 12,000 Living Wage employers who are committed to paying the real Living Wage and 50 Living Hours employers. Almost 450,000 workers get a pay rise every year because of their commitment to always pay staff at least the real Living Wage.  

Corin Bell, Director of Open Kitchen Manchester, said: “The hospitality industry is historically known as a sector with low wages, unpaid overtime, unpredictable hours, and hardworking conditions. We’re determined to show that it can be a positive and progressive sector, and that hospitality can be a rewarding career, and not just a part time job for younger people. We’re a proud Living Wage employer, ensuring we look after the amazing people who choose to work with us as the cost of living goes up.”  

Sally Wilse, Owner and Manager at Seniors Helping Seniors, a home care organisation, said: “We are a proud Living Wage employer, committed to always doing right by our workers. Social care is an industry with typically low pay and a high percentage female workforce, it’s important for us to be a leader in the field and always paying our staff in line with the real cost of living.” 

Antoinette Daniel, Founder of Just Helpers, said: “From the very beginning, we have paid the real Living Wage at Just Helpers. As the first cleaner at the organisation, when I started to recruit, I couldn’t have paid anything less than I was prepared to clean for myself.  

92% of the cleaners at Just Helpers identify as women and our desire is to be part of the solution, to help women achieve their dreams and build a more equitable society. I’m proud to spearhead a female led company that champions other women.”  

Media Contacts: 

Emily.roe@livingwage.org.uk / 07581430557  

Maisie.caro@livingwage.org.uk / 07950666882 

Notes to Editors  

[1] Living Wage Foundation, ‘Employee Jobs Below the real Living Wage’ (2022), using data from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings to reveal the number of jobs below the real Living Wage  

[2] Living Wage Foundation, ‘Living Hours Index’ (2022) 

[3] Living Wage Foundation, ‘Live on Low Pay’ (2022) 

3rd March 2023
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