Why is The Living Wage Important?
The Living Wage is one of the most important tools we have in reducing poverty in Scotland. In-work poverty is a huge problem and it needs to be addressed. Recent figures show that 53% of adults living in poverty reside in a household where at least one person works. And 110,000 Scottish children who live in poverty have at least one parent in work.
Overall, poverty has risen over the past year in Scotland and in real terms there are 820,000 individuals now living in poverty. The most likely group to be living in poverty is children. Indeed the previous downward trend in child poverty has been reversed by the tax and welfare policies being pursued at UK Government level, alongside low wages and a disproportionate rise in the cost of living.
Low Pay in Scotland
Low pay plays a significant role in keeping large numbers of Scottish workers and their families living in poverty. Successive Governments have asserted that work is the most effective route out of poverty.
The Scottish Living Wage Campaign agrees with this, but only if that work is based on a wage that affords workers the chance to achieve a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.
In Scotland the evidence shows that we are a long way from achieving this. The latest figures show that 18% of employees in Scotland are paid less than the Living Wage, which equates to 418,000 individuals.
Low Pay & Women
64% of low paid workers in Scotland are women, and 40% are women working part time. We know that poverty, and therefore low pay, is gendered. Women in general have less access to income, resources and assets than their male counterparts.
In Scotland, women tend to be employed in traditionally female sectors - cleaning, caring, catering, clerical and retail work. These jobs are in the lowest paid of all industries - hotels & restaurants and retail top the list. These jobs are generally low status, and offer little opportunity for career development. Indeed, this is reflected in the under-representation of women at senior levels across almost all industries.
Research by The Fawcett Society found that there are now almost twice as many women working in low paid, low status, insecure jobs than before the 2008 recession. 1 in 2 of low paid female workers report they feel worse off financially than they did five years ago, with 1 in 10 taking out a pay day loan in the last 12 months. These regressions have resulted in the gender pay gap increasing for the first time in five years.
Not only are women more likely to be paid poverty wages, they are more likely to have been affected by the on-going welfare reform measures. Engender report that since 2010, 81% of the £14.9 billion of cuts to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions have been taken from women’s incomes.
This has a knock-on effect on child poverty, as 95% of lone parents are women. If the sole working adult in the household is reliant on poverty pay, the whole family suffers. By lifting women out of poverty, we bring their children with them.
Low Pay & Geography
Dumfires & Galloway, Moray, Clackmananshire and Highland have the highest proportion of low paid workers in Scotland; Edinburgh & East Dunbartonshire have the lowest.
As we can from the above list, low pay is a particular issue in rural Scotland, where the tourist industry, agriculture and related activities are major employment sectors, coupled with the fact that much of this work is seasonal.
Rural low-paid workers also face additional financial pressures compared to their urban counterparts. Scottish Government research tells us that the high cost and lack of availability of suitable public transport makes it difficult for people to access training and employment opportunities, as well as the range of public services and support that is available.
There is a particular lack of opportunities for disabled workers, with specific mention of little or no tailored training programmes in comparison to urban areas.
Living costs in general are often higher in rural areas. For example, there is often a lack of suitable housing in rural areas due to the high number of holiday let and second home properties. This results in inflated rents for local people. In addition to this, many homes use inefficient heating systems and fuel types which just increases the demands on a limited income.
One of the criticisms of the National Minimum Wage is that is does not take into account regional differences in living costs. The Living Wage attempts to address this concern by setting a level by which everyone can afford a decent standard of living.
"At the end of the day I want a pay, not pocket money for my work."
- NMW worker for 24 years
"Being on low wages, sometimes you feel judged by other people. People who work in better jobs- jobs that maybe they’ve studied for- they often work the same amount of hours as I do, but they get paid a lot more.
I think sometimes people in other better paid jobs will look at me, and maybe think that I’m useless or not that clever.
But at the end of the day, I’m putting in equal amounts of time and effort as them. It gets at your self-confidence, because you feel that people look down on you."
- Emily, earns below Living Wage