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Cost of living crisis affecting women more than men

Women in the UK are significantly more likely than men to earn less than a real Living Wage, leaving them vulnerable to the cost of living crisis.

Over 2 million women (14% of all women in the UK) are paid less than the Real Living Wage, compared with 1.4 million men (9% of men) in the UK, according to new research from The Living Wage Foundation.

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Women are also much more likely to be in precarious work as 13% of women in shift work in the UK are on a zero-hours contract, compared with 9% of men in the same position.

Over a quarter (27%) of women said they are paid nothing when their shifts are cancelled, compared with 17% of men.

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said there was no doubt that poverty and low pay disproportionately affected women.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “Our research demonstrates the reality that millions of women in the UK, often cleaners, catering staff and care workers, are more likely to be trapped in low-paying, insecure and precarious jobs than men. 

“Not only are women more likely to be low-paid, they are also more likely to have lower private pension savings and to be in part-time jobs because they often bear the burden of unpaid care work, pushing them into vulnerability. 

“Women bear the brunt of financial insecurity and poverty, and that to solve this, good work must be a priority.”

Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of women’s rights charity Fawcett Society, agreed, adding black and ethnic minority women were especially likely to be in low-paid occupations and hit harder by the cost of living crisis.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “We need to see low wages and the Real Living Wage increased if we are ever to make progress in closing the gender pay gap. 

“This government must make flexible work the default with a requirement for jobs to be advertised as flexible upfront and we need a childcare system that is accessible and affordable to all. Government and employers must do more to give women access to quality, flexible work that fits their skill level."

Becoming an accredited Living Wage employer can be a simple first step for HR in ensuring employees a decent and dignified life, according to Chapman.

She said: “We encourage those who can to join our 12,000-strong network of employers who choose to do right by their workers and pay a wage that covers their everyday needs."

The Real Living Wage is £10.90 in the UK at large and £11.95 in London. The Living Wage Foundation analysed data from the 2022 Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings.