20 October 2017
The latest report from the Social Mobility Commission has found that only one in six low-paid workers escaped onto a higher wage over the last decade.
As many as one in four were stuck on low-pay and never moved up; while almost half saw their wages temporarily increase, only to be slashed once more.
The analysis, by the Resolution Foundation, also found that those stuck in low pay are getting the worst deal at work, with hourly wages rising a miniscule 40p per hour in real terms on average. This compares with and average increase of £4.83 per hour for those low workers who have permanently escaped onto higher pay.
Women are more likely to be on a low wage than men, and also have a greater chance of getting stuck there, although there are some signs of progress as the proportion of women stuck in low pay had decreased to 30% in 2006-2016 compared with 48% in 1981-91. The report suggested that the higher barriers to career progression faced by women are likely associated with difficulty accessing childcare and appropriately flexible work.
Meanwhile, there has also been an increase in the proportion of men on low wages from 20% to 25%, as more male workers move into part-time jobs. This working arrangement was particularly associated with getting ‘stuck’ on a low wage, with the report finding that 64% of those who have not seen progression at work are on part-time hours.
Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “Britain has an endemic low pay problem. While record numbers of people are in employment, too many jobs are low skilled and low paid. Millions of workers – particularly women – are being trapped in low pay with little chance of escape.”
He added: “A new approach is needed to break the vicious cycle where low skills lead to low pay in low-quality jobs. Welfare policy should focus on moving people from low pay to living pay.
“Government should join forces with employers in a new national effort to improve progression and productivity at work. Without concerted action, Britain will become more socially divided and social mobility will continue to stall.”