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UK's women plagued by low wages and zero hour contracts

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UK's women plagued by low wages and zero hour contracts

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Finance

One in four UK women plagued by low wages and zero hour contracts One in four UK women plagued by low wages and zero hour contracts

Image: Money via Shutterstock

A new report has revealed the poor pay and contract conditions of many of the UK's female workers in the wake of the recession.

The Fawcett Society's study found that since 2008, 826,000 extra women have moved into types of work that are typically low paid and insecure.

Since the recession began, female under-employment has nearly doubled, to 789,000, and an additional 371,000 women have moved into self-employment, which is typically very low paid.

And one in eight low paid women now describes themselves as on a zero-hour contract.

The Fawcett Society's report - ‘The changing labour market 2: women, low pay and gender equality in the emerging recovery’ - reveals how the increasing levels of women in low paid work, along with declining wages, is contributing to the widening inequality gap between women and men.

Last year, the gender pay gap increased for the first time in five years - and now stands at 19.1% for all employees.

According to the report, low paid women are feeling the cost of living crisis sharply:

  • Nearly one in two say they feel worse off now than five years ago. 
  • Nearly 1 in 10 have obtained a loan from a payday lender in the last 12 months. 
  • Almost 1 in 12 low paid women with children have obtained food from a food bank in the past twelve months.

And high levels of low paid women are working significantly below their skill or qualification level, the Fawcett Society's study found: 22% of those on low pay are educated to degree level and 36.8% describe themselves as ‘overqualified and over-skilled’ for their current job.

Dr Eva Neitzert, deputy CEO at the Fawcett Society, said: “The evidence is clear: after five years of decline, the UK economy is back on the upswing. Employment is up, unemployment is down and GDP is improving. However, as our research shows, low paid women are being firmly shut out of the recovery.

“The numbers of women in low paid, insecure work are still alarmingly high. Since the crisis in 2008 we have seen a nearly two-fold increase in the numbers of women working in insecure, part-time and temporary jobs where they would prefer to be in secure, full-time roles."

The Fawcett Society's report includes analysis of national employment data and a survey of 1,003 low paid women.

Low pay is defined as earning below the national living wage, currently set at £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK.

In 2013, 4.8 million Britons (20% of all employees) earned below the living wage, with women comprising 62% of these (around three million women).

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s great that more women are in employment but for too many working life just means a different kind of poverty and insecurity. The alarming shift in the UK’s job market towards low-pay and casualised contracts is hitting women hardest and risks turning the clock back on decades of progress towards equal pay.

"Unless more is done to tackle poverty wages and job insecurity women in particular will be excluded from Britain’s economic recovery.”

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