Women are 47% more likely to get stuck in low paid jobs

If you're an older, part-time female worker in a low paid job, the odds are stacked against you getting out of it.

by Ollie Smith
Last Updated: 15 Jan 2015

Britain’s economic recovery may be in sight, what with GDP growing at a fair old tick, but real wage growth is still up the creek. And now new research has found almost a quarter of Brits are in low paid jobs, with many of those mired there for good.

The research, published by the HR membership body CIPD and sponsored by John Lewis, found that being a woman, being older and being in part-time work all increase the chances of becoming ‘stuck’ in low pay (up to 20% above the national minimum wage).

Women in low paid employment are 47% more likely than similar men to still be in that situation after 10 years, according to the study, which was conducted by Tooley Street Research.

There has also been an enormous increase in the number of workers on these lower salaries in the last fourteen years. In 2011 24% of UK workers (numbering 7 million) were low paid, compared to around 15% (4 million) in the 1990s.

Over the same period, an average of 19% of people remained ‘stuck’ on low pay and 40% cycled in and out of low salary jobs. Only 37% were able to escape it. Meanwhile, a typically low paid person aged 35 was 24% more likely to get out of the trap than someone similar aged 45.

Another stand-out finding was that someone working part-time for two or more years out of 10 was 16% more likely to be trapped in low salary jobs than a full-timer. That’s at least partly because part-timers are scared of voicing their dissatisfaction and/or aspirations in case it would jeopardise their job, according to four focus groups put together for the study.

‘For policy makers, the key focus needs to be on how the supply of higher skilled jobs can be increased across the UK economy,’ CIPD chief exec Peter Cheese said. ‘For employers, there needs to be a focus on considering the untapped potential of part-time workers.’

With real wage growth still lagging well behind inflation, and productivity not keeping pace with rising employment, the plight of the low-paid worker has been receiving increasing attention. But whether both the Government and business will get their heads in the game (and can afford to, at least in the short term) is another question.

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