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Dev-Bank Wales MBO


5 March 2024

95,000 Women in Wales are Struggling to Make Ends Meet on Low Paid Jobs

stress mental health

The real Living Wage is the only wage rate based on the cost of living and is paid voluntarily by over 14,000 businesses across the UK. 

According to analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the Living Wage Foundation, almost 2.2 million jobs held by women (15.4% of jobs held by women) are paid below the real Living Wage, compared to 1.5 million jobs held by men (10.4% of jobs held by men).

In Wales, 3 in 5 jobs paid below the real Living Wage are held by women. 14.8% of jobs held by women are low paid (95,000 jobs) compared to 11% of jobs held by men (66,000 jobs).

Women in part-time jobs are bearing the brunt of low pay, as the number of part-time jobs below the real Living Wage held by women is more than twice the number of part-time jobs held by men (1.4 million part-time low paid jobs held by women and 656,000 jobs held by men). According to the analysis, part-time jobs are much more likely to be lower paid, with 28.3% of part-time jobs paying below the real Living Wage compared to 7.5% of full-time jobs.

The real Living Wage is a voluntary wage rate set by the Living Wage Foundation. It is the only wage rate based on the cost of living, and currently stands at £12 across the UK and £13.15 in London. There are over 14,000 accredited Living Wage employers across the UK and 564 in Wales who voluntarily pay their staff the higher wage, including Bangor University, Community Foundation Wales, Sparkles Cleaning, and The North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Last week the Living Wage Foundation announced that the Living Wage Champion Awards will be held in Cardiff for the first time ever this year in recognition of the incredible growth of the Living Wage movement in the city, and within Wales more widely.

Experiences of life on low pay 

This analysis follows research by the Living Wage Foundation, which paints an unsettling picture of women’s experiences of life on low pay.

In August 2023 over half of female workers (58%) reported that they were worse off than they were in the previous year due to financial constraints, compared to 43% of male workers. Female workers were also around twice as likely as male workers to report having no money left over once essentials are paid for (23% of women reported this, compared to 12% of men). 4 in 10 of the female workers (40%) had increased their use of foodbanks over the past year, whereas just over a quarter of male workers (28%) had increased their use of foodbanks.

Unsurprisingly, female workers are more likely to be negatively impacted by their pay than men when it comes to their mental health – 6 in 10 female workers said their pay negatively impacted their levels of anxiety, while under half male workers (48%) said they were impacted by this.

Overall, over half of female workers (55%) said their level of pay was negatively impacting their quality of life, compared to under half of male workers (46%).

This survey took place in August 2023 and asked women to reflect on their experiences over the 12 months prior. 2,010 workers, who earn below the real Living Wage, took part in the survey.

Ellie Davies, cleaner at Sparkles, said:  

“It's not fair when people aren’t paid enough to live on. At my first job I was paid a third of what I get at Sparkles. Being paid fairly has been incredibly empowering and, as a student, it has made a real difference to my life. It provides a sense of security and I feel that I’m valued for the work I do.”

Ceri Jennings, Managing Director of Sparkles Cleaning Services, said:  

“At Sparkles Cleaning we are proud to pay the real Living Wage because it is important to us that our workers feel valued for all their hard work. Cleaning is an industry where most of the workforce are women and where, despite the essential nature of the work, low pay is common. International Women’s Day is a chance to shed light on the many inequalities women face, including higher levels of low pay. It is vital to ensure fair pay and equal opportunities for women in all industries.”

Katherine Chapman, Director at the Living Wage Foundation, said: 

“This analysis highlights the stark reality of an undeniable truth – millions of women are trapped in in low paid work and making up the bulk of low paying industries like health and social care. This isn’t something we should just accept.

Everyone should earn a wage based on the cost of living, but today’s research shows that low pay is a gendered issue.

This International Women’s Day we want to celebrate the 14,000 employers who are accredited with the Living Wage Foundation. By committing to always pay a real Living Wage, they ensure that none of their staff are trapped in low pay and struggling to make ends meet.

When it comes to addressing gender inequality one action employers can take is to join the Living Wage movement.”


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