Five million paid less than the living wage

U.K. Retail Sales Increase

Want to avoid a rubbish-paying job? Steer clear of several parts of East London and the east side of Bristol (Kingswood). New data from the TUC claims one in five jobs pays under the living wage. That's £8.80 in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK. Many areas see almost 50% of workers earning less than this.

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Private sector gap

Wales and the North West loom large - as does the private sector, predictably. Nearly two in five people working in Dwyfor Meirionnydd (mid north west Wales) earn less than the living wage alongside Rhondda in South Wales (39.7 per cent), Blackpool South (39.3 per cent) and West Lancashire (38.2 per cent), claims the TUC.

It's grim pay-day news for workers in Bexleyheath and Crayford in South East London (38.2 per cent) and Wells in Somerset (38.1); many receive less than £7.65 an hour.

The picture deteriorates further for women: more than half of women working in two constituencies – Kingswood (56.1 per cent) and Bexleyheath and Crayford (51.3) per cent – take home less than the living wage.

Never knowingly underpaid?

Although there have been some improvements from certain industry sectors, particularly finance, to pay low-paid workers more, it's the private sector where it's most difficult to sell the idea.

Still, even some well-known high street names like John Lewis have been accused of not paying the London living wage to store cleaners. "All outsourced cleaners are paid the market rate, which varies by region," said John Lewis in a statement.

It went on: "We believe that individual payment terms are something which our suppliers should decide within their own business, but in keeping with our values we have clear expectations of the employment standards of our contractors."

Tax credits

In other words, John Lewis leaves it up to its contractors to decide.

Labour has claimed it would offer tax breaks to persuade private sector employers to pay a living wage. The theory is that the Treasury would also gain, paying out less in tax credit payouts. And you can't pay tax on what you don't earn.

Victorian pressure

"Working families are experiencing the biggest pressure on their living standards since Victorian times," says TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady. "Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom and it's costing our economy dear."

Things improve somewhat for workers in the Poplar and Limehouse areas of East London; also in Weybridge and South Cambridgeshire. See the full data below.

The roots of a living wage extend back to 1891 when Parliament passed the fair wages resolution. It underpinned the International Labour Organisation's convention in 1949 where the UK was the first country to ratify it – and the first to renounce it in 1982.

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