Low pay affects millions of workers throughout Britain – however, a new study has revealed how women are especially affected by low wages, with as much as a third (33 per cent or 1.12 million women) having no savings at all, including a pension.
The research – which was carried out by the Living Wage Foundation and the Fawcett Society and issued to mark International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8 – reveals the extent of the financial burdens UK women face as a result of not being paid the real Living Wage.
For example, the research revealed how the UK’s worst paid women have no, or a very small, safety net for emergencies, with nearly half (43 per cent) having less than £100 saved – too little to cover a financial emergency.
If the women were to lose their job, 61 per cent said they had savings which would only last for a month or less, whilst 33 per cent only had enough savings to last less than a week.
The research also revealed how debt remains an ongoing battle for women in low-paid jobs, with 39 per cent having more than £500 of debt, while 31 per cent have more than £1,000 of debt.
The financial effects of ongoing debt cycles were revealed too, with more than a quarter (25.1 per cent) of women spending more than £100 servicing their debt each month.
The research also exposed a bleak future for women in low-paid jobs with debt, as nearly all the women surveyed (94 per cent) admitted that they worried about their financial situation, whilst 66 per cent confessed that they did not see their financial situation improving within a year.
The real Living Wage is the wage workers need to live on – in London, it is at £10.20, while workers
outside of the capital have a suggested real Living Wage of £8.75.
However, because the real Living Wage is voluntary, millions of working women across the UK are continuing to live in poverty.
Tess Lanning, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “The precariousness of life for women earning little more than the government minimum shows the need for more employers to take a stand by paying the real Living Wage based on what people need to make ends meet.
“Our research shows that debt and financial insecurity is widespread for low paid women, with many struggling to save for a rainy day.”
In addition, further research conducted by KPMG found that more than a quarter (26 percent) of women in work earn less than the real Living Wage, compared to 16 per cent of all males. This equates to 3.4 million women.
Jemima Olchawski, Head of Policy and Insight at the Fawcett Society, credited undervalued work as a reason for the gender pay gap.
“Women are much more likely to be in low-paid work,” she said.
“Often that might be because they need flexibility or part-time work to meet caring responsibilities that they just can’t find in better paid roles.
“It’s also because society undervalues women and the work they do; jobs dominated by women such as caring roles are consistently amongst the lowest-paid.
“Employers can help lift their staff out of poverty and close the gender pay gap by paying the real living wage.
“To maximise the talent available to them, recruiters should make all jobs flexible by default, so a wider range of people can progress at work.
“We would urge larger employers to take the opportunity of pay gap reporting to look closely at the nature and causes of the gap in their organisation and make an action plan to close it.”