A TUC analysis of official data shows that nationally on average, one in five jobs pays under the living wage but in some Parliamentary constituencies nearly half of the people working there earn less than this, with Kingswood topping the list of living wage blackspots.
The figure for women workers in Kingswood taking home less than the living wage rises to over half (56.1%), putting the constituency at the top of both tables for the whole country.
At the other end of the income scale, in some parts of the country – mostly in the South East – as few as five per cent of workers are paid less than the living wage.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Extending the living wage is a vital way of tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty across Britain.
“The number of living wage employers is growing rapidly and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it – but Government must show equal initiative. We need to see a far greater commitment to pay the living wage from Government and employers, and modern wages councils which could set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more.
“During Fair Pay Fortnight (which runs until Sunday) we’re asking workers to back our call to MPs to get all political parties to put decent pay at the top of their agendas in the run up to the election.”
The Week In asked Kingswood’s Conservative MP Chris Skidmore and Jo McCarron, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Kingswood, for their reaction to today’s news.
Mr Skidmore said the House of Commons Library had told him the data is workplace based, not resident based, and looking at resident-based data, somewhere between 10% and 20% of employees living in the constituency earn below the living wage.
He said: “As many local people know, I have been working hard to get local people back into work, organising seven MP Jobs Fairs and one Apprenticeships Fair so far – and I’m currently organising an eighth to take place on 30th May in Hanham.
“Unemployment in Kingswood is now down from 1,320 in May 2010 to around 1,000 – a reduction of 24%. At the same time, figures show that by raising the personal allowance on income tax to £10,000 has taken 478 people in Kingswood out of income tax altogether, and benefitted 36,400 people locally.
“We have also raised the minimum wage from £5.80 under Labour to £6.31 this October. The situation is clearly much better than it was under the previous Government- it’s a shame that those who suddenly seem to be determined to make political point scoring, in spite of not being involved over the past three years in getting people into work, don’t welcome what has been achieved over the past few years, and conveniently forget that we are clearing up the economic mess left by the biggest recession in history.”
Jo McCarron told us: “Whatever claims this Government makes about its ‘economic recovery’, the reality for the vast majority of people is the growing pressure on household budgets they feel on a daily basis.
“These figures show just how much pressure people in Kingswood are feeling – nearly half of people working across Kingswood are earning less than the wage they need just to cover the basics and no constituency in the country has a higher proportion of working people being paid below the living wage. The truth is very few people living here are not feeling the squeeze.
“The average working person is more than £1,600 a year worse off since this Government came to power, as month after month the cost of essentials like food, fuel and childcare has gone up faster than wages. We’ve spoken to thousands of local residents over the last few months and over 80% have told us they are seriously concerned about the rising cost of living.
“Labour’s focus is on helping to ease this pressure by putting forward the kind of straightforward, practical measures people need, like the freeze on energy bills, 10 extra hours of free childcare each week and a tax cut for millions of low and middle income earners by reintroducing the 10p tax rate.
“Hundreds of local residents have signed up to join the call for the Government to act now and implement these measures and it’s time the sitting Tory MP sat up and paid attention to what is going on his patch. Yes, he’s organised a few jobs fairs, but what about all the people in his constituency who are in work but are still struggling? This report shows that people across this constituency need more from those who are meant to represent them.”
In the neighbouring constituency of Filton & Bradley Stoke, which includes Staple Hill and Downend, 15% of workers earn below the living wage. In North East Somerset 23.9 per cent of people have jobs below the living wage.
The figure for Bristol East its 19.5%, Bristol South 19.9%, Bristol West 10.2% and Bristol North West 11%.