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Revealed: More than 35,000 key coronavirus workers in the county do not earn a living wage

PUBLISHED: 15:04 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:31 03 April 2020

At least 35,000 key workers in Norfolk and Waveney, those considered critical to handling the coronavirus crisis, are not earning a living wage. Photo: Lynne Cameron / PA

At least 35,000 key workers in Norfolk and Waveney, those considered critical to handling the coronavirus crisis, are not earning a living wage. Photo: Lynne Cameron / PA

PA Wire/PA Images

At least 35,000 key workers in Norfolk and Waveney, those considered critical to handling the coronavirus crisis, are not earning a living wage.

NHS staff, teachers, and those working in utilities, transport or food industries are among the hundreds of thousands of people across the country helping the UK to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus, despite not earning enough to live on according to new data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Nearly one in five of all employees in the East of England (18.8pc) do not earn the so-called real living wage, which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation at £9.30 an hour for those outside of London, and based on costs such as food, clothing and household bills.

Among these employees are thousands of key workers including hospital cleaners and porters, teaching assistants and carers.

READ MORE: Here is the list of key workers as schools set to close

In Norwich, some 22.7pc of jobs pay less than the real living wage, meaning an estimated 17,000 key workers took home less than £9.30 an hour last year for their work which has since been deemed essential by the government.

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In Great Yarmouth, 10,000 key workers (29.4pc of all workers), are believed to have taken home less than the real living wage in 2019, while in North Norfolk a further 8,000 jobs are estimated to pull in less than the real living wage.

Across Waveney, 13,000 workers were believed to have not earned the living wage in 2017, but data is not available for 2018 or 2019.

The UK’s largest union, GMB, called for key workers’ wages to be raised, and said the coronavirus crisis has shone a light on the “rock-bottom pay” of the people “expected to risk their health to protect us”, estimating that more than three million workers could be affected nationally.

The real living wage is a voluntary scheme separate to the National Living Wage which was raised to £8.72 an hour for those over the age 25 from Wednesday, April 1.

READ MORE: Nurse exoduses, homes closing and inadequate providers - the challenges facing council’s care services

The data, taken from HM Revenue and Customs PAYE records, shows the number of people earning less than the real living wage dropped between 2018 and 2019, which the ONS says is due to the living wage increasing.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “It is right we ensure the lowest paid are fairly rewarded for their contribution to the economy, particularly those working in essential services during the biggest threat this country has faced in decades.

“This year’s increase to the National Living Wage means we will be putting an extra £930 a year into the pockets of 2.4 million of the UK’s lowest paid workers.”


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