Millions ‘trapped’ in low pay work

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MILLIONS of workers are trapped in low pay with “little chance of escape”, new research claims.

Researchers on behalf of the Social Mobility Commission tracked individuals’ pay over ten years and found low pay is “endemic” in the UK, with little progress in the numbers of people managing to escape from poorly paid jobs.

Three in ten workers in Yorkshire and the Humber were classed as ‘stuck’ in low pay, while just 19 per cent were classed as ‘escapers’ meaning they have earned higher than the low pay threshold for the last three years.

Just over half, 52 per cent, were classed as ‘cyclers’, those who move out of low pay at some point, but who have not consistently stayed above the threshold. Low pay is defined as hourly earnings below two-thirds of the median hourly wage - estimated to be £8.25 per hour in 2017.

The research, carried out by the Resolution Foundation, also found that hourly pay rose by just 40p in last decade in real terms for workers stuck in low pay, and that women are more likely to be stuck in low pay, with the lack of good quality, flexible work to fit alongside childcare responsibilities as the most likely barrier.

Former Health Secretary Alan Milburn, chair of 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.

“Britain’s flexible workforce gives us global economic advantage but a two-tier labour market is now exacting too high a social price. A new approach is needed to break the vicious cycle where low skills lead to low pay in low quality jobs.

“Without concerted action, Britain will become more socially divided and social mobility will continue to stall.”

In January, The Yorkshire Post reported the concentration of low pay jobs in the Sheffield City Region made South Yorkshire “Britain’s low pay capital”, with hourly pay 10 per cent below the UK average.

Lead on research and campaigns at Citizens Advice Sheffield, Frances Potter, said a combination of zero hours contracts and low rates of pay had left many working people “struggling to stay afloat”.

“People are being promised certain amounts of work or pay and it simply doesn’t materialise,” she said. “This can be compounded for agency workers who are frightened to kick up a fuss because they won’t then get the call for work.”

- The average worker in Yorkshire loses £25,410 in earnings over the course of their lifetime as a result of working during their lunch break, totaljobs has found.