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Life for Women on Low Pay: Research by Survation for the Fawcett Society

A survey of 1,003 women on low pay conducted by Survation for the Fawcett Society provides important insights into the multiple dimensions of life on low pay in Britain today. Previously released findings concerned maternity leave and zero hour contracts. The Fawcett Society and Survation are now reporting further findings from this research, shedding light on the living and working conditions and experiences of women who earn less than £7.44 per hour.

 

We found that among women on low pay:

  • More than 1 in 3 do not believe that there are opportunities for them to progress at work.
  • 37% feel overqualified and over-skilled for their job.
  • Only 27% say they always have enough money to cover their household living costs.15% say they rarely or never have enough.
  • More than half aged over 35 (56%) say that their household is worse off compared to 10 years ago. Less than a quarter (24%) say their household was better off.
  • 7% with children under 18 have received food from a food bank in the last year
  • 10% have obtained a loan from payday lender, including 15% of low paid women under 35.
  • 59% of those who took out a payday loan in the last 12 months did so to pay for everyday essentials such as bills, rent and food

 

Low Paid Work

Over 1 in 5 of the low-paid women we polled have degree level qualifications. 37% of them feel overqualified and over-skilled for their job. Among those who feel this way, the top three reasons are: no more appropriate jobs available (41%), caring for children (16%), and because they enjoy their job and do not wish to move (12%).

More than 1 in 3 women on low pay do not believe that there are opportunities for them to progress at work. For nearly two thirds (65%) of these women, the reason for lack of progress is an absence of appropriate jobs available.

Compared to 10 years ago, more low-paid women over 35 say their pay and conditions have got worse than better. 43% of low-paid women over 35 say their pay is worse than 10 years ago compared to 36% who say their pay is better. 35% say that their conditions are worse today than 10 years ago while only 21% say they are better.

A lack of appropriate jobs is holding significant numbers of women on low pay back from progressing from jobs for which they feel underqualified.

 

Cost of Living

Only 27% of women on low pay say they always have enough money to cover their household living costs. 58% have enough money some or most weeks. 15% rarely or never have enough money to cover these costs.

How has the cost of living changed over time relative to people’s pay? We asked those aged over 30 whether their household is worse or better off compared to 5 years ago. Almost a quarter (24%) say they are better off. 27% say they are the same, while almost half (49%) say they are worse off. Among part-time workers, 54% say they are worse off than 5 years ago.

Of those who say they are better off, the top three reasons are having less debts (26%), having a pay increase (18%) and a partner getting a new job (15%).

Of those who say they are worse off, the most common reasons are groceries and bills being more expensive (40%), having less pay (15%), and losing a job (7%).

The reasons low-paid women feel better off are more likely to be due to a change in their own personal circumstances while those who feel worse off are more likely due to wider changes in the cost of living.

 

Food banks

4% of low-paid women have received food from a food bank in the last 12 months. This rises to 6% among the 18-34 group and 7% amongst those with a child under the age of 18.

The top reasons given for receiving food from a food bank are changes in personal circumstances such as separation, losing a job and illness (31%), rising costs of housing, groceries, bills and childcare (29%),  and benefit cuts and delays (21%).

 

Pay Day Loans

10% of women on low pay have obtained a loan from a payday lender in the last 12 months. This rises to 15% of under 35s and 14% of those with a child aged under 18.

59% took out a loan to pay for everyday essentials such as bills, rent and food. Only 7% took out a pay day loan to pay for luxury items or presents. 17% took out such a loan to pay off debts. The remaining 15% used it to pay for home repairs.

When asked the main reason they could not afford to pay for the item without a payday loan, a third (34%) cited low pay, 11% benefit cuts and delays, 26% prices going up, 12% debts, and 11% changes in personal circumstances such as separation, losing a job or illness.

 

From 4th – 6th June 2014, Survation surveyed 1003 women paid £7.44 or less per hour, or £1,128 or less per month. Fieldwork was conducted via online panel. Data tables can be found here.

 

Katy Owen

Katy Owen

Senior Project Manager

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