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Majority of jobs below Living Wage held by women

New data published by the Living Wage Foundation has revealed it is women who are disproportionately impacted by low pay and current rising living costs.

Its data found that a fifth of women in work today, some 3 million people, are paid less than the real Living Wage. This compares with 14% (just under 2 million) of men. It means that 60% of all jobs paid below the Living Wage jobs are held by women.

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Speaking to HR magazine Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation said: “What the data shows is two things – the disproportionate number of women in low pay, but also the disproportionate impact low pay has on women – in terms of its impact of standards of living, but also women's mental and physical health.

“We know women are having to make very tough decisions. What feeds into this is the scourge of under employment and insecure hours – which again also impact women more. This is the other side of the coin that creates something of a double-whammy faced by women.”

Sectors the Living Wage Foundation said were worst for exposing inequalities include supermarkets, where 50% of women are paid less than the Living Wage compared with 41% of men; social care, where 46% of women receive less than the Living Wage compared with 38% of men, and schools, 22% of women and 8% of men are paid less than the Living Wage.

According to Chapman, women are bearing the brunt of ‘she-flation’ – a higher cost of living that women have to absorb due to them commonly spending more of their income on non-durable household goods, for example food and cleaning products, which are typically more susceptible to inflation-induced volatility.

Chapman said: "Our data is telling us women are starting to find it much more difficult to plan their expenditure now." 

In addition to she-flation, employers are being blamed for forcing women to endure a significant ‘parent pay-gap’, whereby lack of flexibility at work causes them to forego promotions in order to care for their children or parents.

This gap creates a 38% different between male and female pension incomes by the time they retire.

The news comes as inflation is predicted to break 8% in the coming weeks, according to new number-crunching by The Resolution Foundation.

This is as the impact of gas and oil prices resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine start to bite. Inflation was already at its highest level for 30 years, even before the start of the conflict.

The Living Wage Foundation’s own Life on Low Pay poll recently found 42% of low paid women said they had fallen behind on household bills. This compared to 35% of low paid men. It also found 35% of low-paid women had skipped meals regularly for financial reasons, compared with 29% of low-paid men.   

The survey also found half (50%) of low-paid women said their levels of pay negatively affected their levels of anxiety, compared with 38% of low-paid men.

If the Resolution Foundation is right, inflation will come close to the 8.4% rate hit in April 1991, which saw inflation at its highest level since 1982.