The number of women in the UK who don’t have a job has soared to record levels under the Tory-led coalition government, a new report reveals.
According to figures from the Fawcett Society, a leading charity who campaign on advancing equality rights for women, nearly one million (946,000) remain unemployed while others struggle to get by on poverty wages.
826,000 women are trapped in low-paid jobs, the report says, or are forced to accept controversial zero-hours contracts. Almost half of those questioned by the Fawcett Society say austerity and the ‘cost of living crisis’ means they are worse off under the ConDem coalition.
The charity is calling on the government to back its campaign for all workers to be paid the living wage, which currently stands at £8.80 per hour in London and £7.65 per hour across the rest of the UK.
The minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is set to increase by 19p per hour to £6.50 from October 2014. The rate for 18-20 year-olds will increase to £5.13 an hour and £3.79 for 16 and 17 year-olds. Apprentices will get a meagre 5p extra, taking their earnings up to just £2.73 for every hour worked.
The definition of ‘low pay’ (two-thirds of the median full-time average salary) set by the OECD currently stands at anything below £7.71 an hour.
Deputy Director of the Fawcett Society, Dr. Eva Neitzert, said:
“From cleaners, dinnerladies and care assistants to supermarket workers and admin assistants, women undertake crucial work that helps to hold the fabric of society together.
“But rather than benefitting from the economic growth we are seeing, the situation for these women is declining. We urgently need to tackle the low wages paid to women by increasing the value of the national minimum wage.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added:
“The alarming shift in the UK’s job market towards low pay and casual contracts is hitting women hardest and risks turning the clock back on decades of progress towards equal pay.
“Unless more is done to tackle poverty wages and job insecurity, women will be excluded from the economic recovery.”
Gloria De Piero, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said:
“It’s clear that this isn’t a recovery for working women. Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, more women are struggling on low pay, in insecure jobs and not getting the hours they and their families need.
“Only a Labour Government is committed to tackling the scandal of low pay by significantly increasing the minimum wage, providing incentives for employers to pay the living wage and delivering on the promise of equal pay for women and their families across the country.”
Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan said the pay gap is too high, but argued: “It is narrowing – and for full-time workers under 40 is almost zero.”