'Women hit hard by economic crisis'

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Women have been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis, with those working full-time on average £2,500 out of pocket over the last three years, Ed Miliband said.

The Labour leader said women were suffering as wages failed to keep pace with price rises.

He told ITV's Daybreak that Labour was committed to taking action on low pay including backing a policy of tax breaks for companies paying the living wage - set higher than the minimum wage.

He also repeated his pledge to freeze energy prices if elected in 2015.

"If I am elected in 2015 we will legislate for an energy price freeze until 2017 and we will use that time to sort out the broken energy market," he said.

"This cost-of-living crisis is hitting women particularly hard. Women have seen their wages on average, if you are working full-time, go down by £2,500 in just three years because prices have been rising faster than wages," he said.

"When I have talked about the cost-of-living crisis, we are saying we can do something about it; so, for example, we are going to give tax breaks to companies to pay the living wage - not just a minimum wage - that will make a difference to wages.

"We will take action on prices, as I said, taking action on energy bills. Also taking action on the quality of jobs. I was meeting some apprentices yesterday, I want to see a big expansion of the apprenticeship programme."

Mr Miliband said five million people are paid less than the living wage.

"I want to make taking action on that the centrepiece of my next government," he said.

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