Low pay ‘endemic’ among UK workers says study


Low pay is “endemic” in the UK with few workers managing to progress into better paid jobs, according to a new study.

Just one in six (17%) of those on low pay manage to move permanently up the salary scale over the last decade, the report from the Social Mobility Commission said.

It also said that a quarter remained permanently stuck on low pay while 48% fluctuated in and out of this category.

On average, people stuck in this group have seen their hourly wages rise by just 40p in real terms – stripping out the effects of inflation – over the last ten years.

That compares to a £4.83 rise for those who have “escaped”, said the study, which was carried out by the Resolution Foundation think-tank.

Women are more likely to be low paid than men and are far more likely to be stuck at this level, the report found – with the lack of flexible work to fit around childcare responsibilities seen as a key barrier to progress.

The report comes a day after official figures showed for the six month in a row that wage rises are lagging behind the increase in the cost of living.

Former Labour minister Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility Commission, said: “Britain has an endemic low pay problem.

“While record numbers of people are in employment, too many jobs are low skill and low paid.

“Millions of workers – particularly women – are being trapped in low pay with little chance of escape. The consequences for social mobility are dire.”

Conor D’Arcy, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain has one of the highest proportions of low paid work in the developed world.

“And while three-quarters of low-paid workers did manage to move into higher-paying roles at some point over the last decade, the vast majority couldn’t sustain that progress.”

The report acknowledged the impact of the National Living Wage, which saw the biggest fall in the number of people in low paid work in 40 years last year.

But it said there would still be around four million low paid employees in 2020.

The analysis defined low pay as hourly earnings below two-thirds of the median hourly wage – excluding tips, commissions or other payments.

The low pay threshold was estimated at £8.25 for 2017.

A Business Department spokesman said more people were in work than ever before but said the Government wanted to go further “by creating good quality jobs for all through our modern industrial strategy, boosting earning power and improving living standards across the country”.