Norfolk/ Suffolk: Fifth of British workers earn below the living wage

Jess Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North.

Jess Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North. - Credit: Geoff Wilson

One in five British workers in the Eastern region earns below the so-called living wage, a report has revealed.

Using the most recent figures available the study found 25% of women and 15% of men were paid below the living wage in April last year, when the benchmark was calculated as £7.20 an hour outside London and £8.30 in the capital.

In total 4.8 million Britons, 20% of employees, were paid at a level below the rate deemed necessary for a basic standard of living, an increase from 3.4 million in 2009. Almost half a million employees earning below the living wage were in the eastern region.

Unlike the minimum wage, it is up to employers to decide whether their staff are paid the living wage, which is currently £7.45 an hour or £8.55 in London.

Labour's parliamentary candidate for Norwich North Jessica Asato said there were people in Norwich who were not able to make ends meet and the cost of living was one of the key issues raised on the door step.

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'More people are living under the living wage now than when Labour were last in power. This means that people do not have enough income to buy food for their families, pay their mortgages and raise their children in the way they should be raised.

'People are not able to make ends meet. They are at the end of their redundancy pay, they cannot keep up with the bills they need to pay and they are being evicted from their homes.'

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She said that many were having to turn to food banks.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party's policy review was looking at a series of ideas about how to take plans for the living wage further forward and to see what the next Labour government can do to help.

Ms Asato said that the living wage would benefit businesses because there would be a lower absentee rate and staff would be more loyal to the company.

'There are other things companies need, particularly staff stability - that is a cost to business,' she added.

The report by the Resolution Foundation think-tank found 77% of employees aged under 20 earned less than the living wage.

Two-thirds of restaurant and hotel workers (67%) were paid below the benchmark, the study found.

The report's author Matthew Whittaker, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: 'For most of the working population real wages have been flat or declining for many years and as a result more and more people have dipped below the level of the living wage.

'This means an increasing struggle to keep up with the cost of living.

'Britain has a sorry story to tell on low pay. Only a handful of our close competitors do worse and the large majority have much lower rates of low pay - sometimes half as much.

'The challenge for all parties is to find ways of boosting rates of pay, especially for those who earn less, without putting economic growth at risk.'

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